Parents have to realize that baby birds need to leave the nest and they need the skills to fly alone.
by Sarah Yobbi
When Katelyn* slipped and fell down her stairs, she had barely hit the ground when her mother sprinted to her aid with a bag of peas and muscle cream. It has been this way since she was younger, where it seemed her mother was always there to catch her when she fell, but appeared to be more upset than she was.
“I felt she was overreacting and it was a scary situation”, she is an example of the struggles children find dealing with “helicopter parents,” where they hover their kids hoping they can prevent anything bad from coming their way. Helicopter parents go farther than most to ensure the well-being and protection of their children.
College senior Katelyn has been struggling with this issue since Kindergarten. Psychologist
Reuben Brock details how the rising use of “helicopter parenting” has increased anxiety
among children because they were not taught earlier in life how to manage such small hiccups.
“The major problem with college students who had helicopter parents is that they don't know
how to manage issues on their own. Because their parents have managed all of their issues
throughout their childhood, these students are actually at a disadvantage.”
Katelyn recalls being very young and being babied by her mother and how it set the tone for
the rest of their relationship. “If she didn’t coddle me the way she did, I would be able to be
more independent in my life,” and how this has contributed to her daily anxieties such as
making doctors appointments or calling the pharmacy.
Dr. Reuben Brock is an assistant professor of Psychology at California University of
Pennsylvania, and 20 year veteran in mental health. Dr. Brock mentions that these individuals
will experience a much larger amount of daily anxiety than others, because they were not
taught earlier in life how to deal with minor inconveniences.
Katelyn fell down the stairs in her home and was met with serious pain in her arm and shoulder.
Her mother held peas on her shoulder and was pleading with her to go to the hospital. Katelyn, however, was not in enough pain to spend the night in the emergency room. The reaction was too much at the time for Katelyn, causing her more anxiety at that moment than she wanted to experience.
Helicopter parenting can be identified as “trying to intervene in your child's life, before they’ve had a chance to try to resolve a situation themselves,” according to Dr. George Glass, Psychiatrist specializing in addiction disorders, and also once a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at three different medical schools. Another aspect Dr. Glass mentions is jumping in too soon and trying to protect your child from consequences or harm. He continues that everything has consequences, good or bad. Similarly to Katelyn’s situation, intervening too soon caused more hysteria than there needed to be.
Katelyn also has been prevented from different job opportunities due to the aggressive need her mother had to get a hold of her. She was supposed to interview at a local grocery store, but instead was met with a large amount of text messages from her mother asking her where she was. When she told her where she was, she was met with; “Why didn’t you tell me?” and her mother insisting she needs to know where she is at all times. When Katelyn reassured her mom she needed to take the interview to get a job to make money, her mother said she would take care of whatever she needs. Her mother wanted her home because at the time her dog was very ill and her mother wanted help taking care of him. The discussion escalated when she tried to explain to her mother she had plenty of her own responsibilities and had to make money.
She felt her mother turned her responsibilities into an excuse for her not loving her dog.
After this argument, she had to cancel her job interview and went without a job for months.
Some of the anxieties that come from this overparenting include not being able to manage small
tasks. For example, Katelyn mentions that having her mother manage all of her doctors
appointments throughout her life has made it very hard for her to do it herself. “Getting
prescriptions refilled, grocery shopping, she’s always done for us, so I never take it upon myself
Dr. Glass’s associate, David Tabatsky, is an author and editor. The pair wrote The Overparenting
Epidemic: Why Helicopter Parenting Is Bad For Your Kids… and Dangerous for You, Too! The
pair mentioned, “the effects of overparenting go far beyond teenage children’s complaining
about their parents’ nagging them and enforcing what seem to the children to be
unreasonable.” Overparenting begins at a young age, with cosseting your children when they
simply fall down the stairs, or calling different college scouts, trying to ensure your son gets a
spot on the football team. “Well-meaning parents run the risk of creating a falsely entitled, overly
coddled, and dependent child”.
Overparenting, while not ill-meant, can be detrimental to how children develop into adults.
College students are alone and truly independent for the first time. Parents showing them
how to manage these small hiccups in life can contribute to stronger mental health for
these newly independent adults.
*This individual did not want her true identity used to protect herself and her family.
Keywords: Parents, Children, Over-Parenting, Helicopter, Independent, Students, Parenting, Anxiety, Psychology
Sarah Yobbi is a senior working towards obtaining a Broadcast Reporting major and a minor in Public Relations and Advertising.
Psychologist Reuben Brock
Dr. George Glass
Author David Tabatsky
The Overparenting Epidemic details the hard facts of overbearing parents