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Helicopter Parenting and Depression

It’s that time of year when colleges inform thousands of college bound students of their acceptance into the college’s hallowed hall. And then comes the mad rush to deck out that dorm room, to get all the necessary “equipment” for the first year away from home, and to balance issues regarding finances and roommates and odds and ends of starting a new phase of life.

One of the things that is often not addressed (although it has of late been getting a lot of press) is how the parents react to this life change for their child and themselves. The term “helicopter parent” was coined because of the unique method these parents have of hovering over their kids and attempting to solve the problems that occur instead of allowing the child to deal with his or her own challenges. Well, it is official now: helicopter parenting is not good for your kids. It can often cause depression.

According to Bonnie Rochman, a Time Magazine columnist, a new study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies found that being overly involved in your grown-up kids’ lives can do more harm than good. The research was conducted by the same scientists who showed last year that intensive parenting — constantly stimulating your children — can make moms more depressed.

When my kids left for college, I was very sad. Our relationships would change. Their need for me would change. But I felt it was very important for them to become their own persons. I can’t say it was easy or that I didn’t make mistakes, but I think because of my “back off” attitude, they have become two very strong, competent, and loving people. And our relationships have only grown into nurturing adult friendships.

Helicopter parents often deprive their children of making decisions, of trying to solve problems that arise, and of becoming their own person. When we, as parents, refuse to let go, we actively work at creating a generation of people who don’t know how to make decisions, who don’t trust themselves to make those decisions, and who get depressed because of their inability to meet the simple challenges of life.

The students in the study reported that when their parents hovered, taking over the decision making, the student often felt depressed and anxious. They often felt incompetent. The parents, on the other hands, felt exhausted and often depressed themselves, feeling that the sacrifice they were making was worth it because they were “helping their children.”

Let’s not open another avenue for depression to creep in. Let’s land the helicopters now and look to be the “good-enough” parents who are there and willing to help when asked but not interfering in situations that might help their child grow and keep the black dog of depression at bay. –Bernadette

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