Helicopter parents – the over-controlling, overprotective, often strict parents who hover over their kids like a metaphoric helicopter.
Often, they have the best of intentions at heart, but their actions could actually be doing more harm than good.
Nobody wants their kid to fail, to be upset, to be physically hurt or to be unwell, but at the same time, there comes a point when too much cotton wool can be too much.
In fact, researchers from University College London recently found that parents who exert too much control over their kids could be causing them lifetime psychological damage.
As part of a study, they tracked a group of people born in the 1940s until present day. The researchers found people who reported that their parents intruded on their privacy in childhood or encouraged dependence were more likely to have lower scores in surveys about happiness and general wellbeing carried out in their teens, 30s, 40s and even in their 60s.
In fact, the researchers found that the impact on wellbeing for some children of helicopter parents was the same as people who had suffered a bereavement. That’s right, it felt the same as the death of a loved one.
People who said their parents were more caring, warm and responsive to their needs, in contrast, tended to be more content well into their adult life.
As parents, it’s our job to teach our children the life skills they need so one day they can leave the nest and have a life of their own. Shielding them from failure and hurt now might just be setting them up for that actual thing in later life.
There are several different ways helicopter parenting could backfire, causing psychological and behavioural issues both in childhood and down the track.
Overprotective parenting has been associated with childhood delinquency. Kids who feel monitored and restrained can potentially rebel and “go off the rails”.
2. Becoming overly dependent on parents.
The children of helicopter parents may find themselves feeling helpless and unable to function independently as they get older – relying on their parents for their support and success in life. This of course is unsustainable as they go through life, attend higher education and try to establish a career, and could be setting the kid up for spectacular failure when they try to go it alone.
3. Low self-esteem
Without the relevant life skills and practical experiences to succeed in different tasks, kids of overprotective parents can have low self-confidence and as a result, their self-esteem suffers.
4. Issues with relationships
When parents have been overly involved in regulating a child’s life well into the teen years and early adulthood, the child can find it difficult to make friendships, have relationships, and even make marriage choices without deferring to their parents’ decisions. Meddling parents are a disaster waiting to happen in intimate relationships.
5. Anxiety and depression
Children who have had helicopter parents are at risk of developing anxiety, fear, panic syndrome and depression. Kids who haven’t been given the space to work through issues on their own often lack problem-solving skills. They do not learn to be confident in their own abilities, and having never experienced failure can cause them to develop an overwhelming fear of failure and disappointing others.