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How to ground a helicopter parent

Helicopter parenting, definition: A parent who involves themselves in their child’s life extensively, often ‘hovering’ over tasks that the child is capable of doing independently.  

Take a step back for a minute – are you a helicopter parent? Whether you’re a self-proclaimed hoverer, know someone who is or aren’t too sure if you’ve been guilty of this, it’s not all bad. Societally, we use this term pejoratively, but always remember it comes from a place of love and care, and just wanting what’s best for your child.  

If you’re trying to ground someone, or come back down to earth yourself, here are a few tips and things to consider.  

Why do parents hover?

  1. Fear of consequences 
  2. Anxiety 
  3. Overcompensation 
  4. Peer pressure 

There are a number of reasons parents might hover over their children, but a lot of these come from worry and stress over their path in life. Whether you’re scared of what might happen when you send them off into the world, have anxiety over their self-management skills or are feeling something else entirely, take time to acknowledge and understand these feelings. They’re a totally normal part of parenting. What’s important is that you’re able to take a step back and see how these can affect your child, and make small changes to these behaviours.  

What are the effects?

  1. Decreased confidence and self-worth 
  2. Underdeveloped coping skills  
  3. Increased anxiety 
  4. Sense of entitlement  
  5. Underdeveloped life skills  

It’s important to stay attuned to what’s going on in your teen’s life, but at the same time, you’ve got to give them space to breathe – otherwise, this can manifest in not-so-healthy ways. It can impact their confidence making their own decisions, or simply force them to hand over control and let you make their choices for them, resulting in underdeveloped (or totally undeveloped) coping and life skills. Hovering can also cause anxiety or leave them with a sense of entitlement, knowing that you’ll always step in and save the day when something goes wrong.  

How to stop helicopter parenting

  1. Let your child struggle (supportively)  
  2. Allow them to be disappointed 
  3. Help them work through failure 
  4. Let them complete their own tasks 

So, if you’re a helicopter parent, welcome to the club – don’t beat yourself up, because so many parents exhibit these tendencies at some point during their child’s life. There are a few constructive ways to curb these habits before they become too destructive, though. Most importantly, you’ve got to let them think and act for themselves.  

We’re talking making mistakes, making their own decisions and facing their failures. If there are things in their lives that you’re doing, but realistically could be something they’re able to complete, hand it over and slowly pass on some responsibility. They’ll be better off in the long run, with skills they can take into adulthood, their time at university and their broader life. 

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