It was 8 am in the morning, and I was shuffling through the newspaper when the phone bell rang. “Good morning aunty, can you please talk to my mom, I think she is not well and I am feeling tense about her, tomorrow is my first paper aunty and I have to revise for that”. Vivek my friend’s son, a class 12 student was urging me for help. I asked him to give the phone to his mom. “Hi Vini what’s up?” The familiar but quite frail and shaky voice answered me,” The whole world seems to be whirling around me, my hands are wet and cold and there is a terrible feeling in my gut! Vivek’s board exams are starting from tomorrow, and I have a terrible headache and stomach ache, moreover I am unable to sleep!” My friend seemed to be in a bad shape. I decided to visit her and talk her out of her problem.
I rushed to her house to find her in a pathetic condition. She was lying on the couch in a fragile condition with her son and husband standing by her side. She was sweating profusely, face was looking pale, she looked sleep deprived and when I checked her pulse she was having a tachycardia. Her blood pressure was high and respiratory rate was also high. Typical signs of high levels of stress and anxiety- aggressive impulses, headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, changes in appetite and dizziness! “This started since yesterday; tomorrow onwards is Vivek’s board exam and I have checked his pencil box, water bottle and kept all his essential things in place! The uniform is ready, shoes are polished and his hall ticket which I got laminated is neatly kept in his bag! There are so many things to be done still, I have to give him fruits, cook something healthy for him……! Yaar give me some good medicine, help me”. I felt very sorry for my friend. I gave her some nominal medications, counseled her for a few minutes, and gave her a few tips of what to do and what not during Vivek’s exams! I wished my friends son best of luck, hoped that she follows my instruction and left her place with a though that what she needs is not medicines but a deep understanding and self-remedial measures for her obsessive behavioral pattern and the repercussions of it!
We come across many such parents, especially mothers! Vinita is one of them and she is a typical case of helicopter parenting syndrome (lawnmower parenting, cosseting parenting or bulldoze parenting), a hyper-parenting mode! It becomes impossible for a person to understand and assimilate when one got trapped in this vicious type of parenting, but it is never too late and one can heal oneself for a better future of our child and ours too!
That time of the year is here, dreaded equally by students and parents alike. The examination season is marked with sky-high stress levels, anxiety, pressure and tension on part of both the students as well as the parents. Parents often feel like it is them who are giving the examination instead of the child. Lives begin to revolve around a flurry of tuitions and tuition teachers, strict time-tables and academics. We as parents believe examinations to be the most important aspect of a child’s life to the exclusion of everything else and pass this message along with the tension to the child as well.
With so much perceived to be at stake, it is not surprising that children find themselves experiencing very high stress and anxiety levels. It is a difficult task for a parent to convey to their children the importance of exams while making sure that they do not add to their children’s stress, woes and worried, and at the same time handle their own personal anxiety as well. It is indeed a challenging time!
One of the most important responsibilities as a parent is to be aware of your anxiety relating to your child’s performance. Every parent is anxious about their child’s academics. It is essential that one does not pass this anxiety on to our child as this can hamper his performance and ability to concentrate. The best way to keep the child stress-free is to be calm yourself. Some amount of stress is important for optimum performance as well as for the ability to focus. An adequate level of stress will enable your child to take his examinations seriously and prepare accordingly. Each individual has different strategies to study and handle examinations. What worked for you may not work for your child. It is important to give him/her space to figure out what works best for him by not interfering in his/her study habits. It is good to provide support and ease anxieties but sometimes as parents in our desire to help them we can come across as over-bearing to the child. During examinations, children often get moody, this is a normal reaction. Giving your child the space to cope and to study is often all that is needed. To help children maintain a high self esteem of themselves on the verge of their examinations, it becomes highly important for parents to relay highly supportive gestures towards their children.
Parents in the process should as much as possible act normal like before and take heed of what their child is doing while refraining from pressurizing them to do more.
One of the most important lessons we need our children to learn is that success is a process, not a destination and that it has many definitions, academic results is just one of many definitions of success. Looking at examinations as a learning process and as a life-skill rather than a monster can help free both students as well as us as parents of exam related stress and anxiety.
Especially mothers have a inbuilt tendency to hover over kids with anxious anticipation of fulfilling an unmet need. Their intentions may be honorable, but the behavior may earn them an unwanted moniker – helicopter parent. Helicopter parents are too much obsessed with their children and become over-involved in their lives. They overstep their bounds, cross the line and downright break the sound barrier of acceptable parental participation. This conduct was encouraged when your child was in kindergarten, but when he or she is in college the parents may find themselves being treated as persona non grata if they don’t come down to terra firma and let the child live his own life. A Healthy Balance While participation in a child’s education is encouraged. But parents should respect the needs of maturing teens. As children grow, they need to practice and get in to the habit of making their own decisions, with guidance from their parents. Young adults need to face challenges that will build skills and self-esteem. They should take advantage of opportunities to shape their identity and speak their mind. As you strive to maintain a healthy balance, try thinking of yourself as a coach. You’re there to provide structure, give advice, and serve as a role model, but it’s your child who needs to step up to the plate. The trend for mothers in particular to be extremely involved in their child’s every experience is known as ‘helicopter parenting’, it leaves the children fragile and unable to cope with life’s experiences and mothers whose lives revolve around their children may be more likely to suffer from depression.
Overparenting also means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting. Although the term is most often applied to parents of high school or college-aged students, where the parents end up doing tasks the child is capable of doing himself (for instance, talking to a teacher regarding some papers, arranging a class schedule, manage exercising habits, etc). But signs of Helicopter parenting are seen at an early age. In toddlerhood, a helicopter parent might constantly shadow the child, always playing with and directing his behavior, allowing him zero alone time. In middle school, helicopter parenting can be revealed through a parent ensuring a child has a certain teacher or coach, selecting the child’s friends and activities, or providing disproportionate assistance for homework and school projects.
The common triggers which initiate helicopter parenting are-fear of dire consequences, feelings of anxiety, compensation, i.e. adults who felt unloved, neglected, or ignored as children can overcompensate with their own children. Excessive attention and monitoring are attempts to remedy a deficiency the parents felt in their own upbringing, and peer pressure from other parents -When parents see other overinvolved parents, it might trigger a similar response. Sometimes when we observe other parents overparenting or being helicopter parents, it will pressure us to do the same. We can easily feel that if we don’t immerse ourselves in our children’s lives, we are bad parents. Guilt is a large component in this dynamic.
The consequences of helicopter parenting are long lasting. Many helicopter parents start off with good intentions. It is a tricky line to find, to be engaged with our children and their lives, but not so enmeshed that we lose perspective on what they need. Parenthood is supposed to be one of life’s most fulfilling experiences. Engaged parenting has many benefits for a child, such as increasing feelings of love and acceptance, building self-confidence, and providing guidance and opportunities to grow. The problem is that, once parenting becomes governed by fear and decisions based on what might happen, it is hard to keep in mind all the things kids learn when we are not right next to them or guiding each step.
Failure and challenges teach kids new skills, and, most important, teach kids that they can handle failure and challenges.
Helicopter parenting backfires and leads to decreased confidence and self-esteem, increased anxiety, sense of entitlement, undeveloped life skills etc.
So how can a parent love and care for their children without inhibiting their ability to learn important life skills?
As parents, we have a very difficult job. We need to keep one eye on our children now–their stressors, strengths, emotions–and one eye on the adults we are trying to raise. Getting them from here to there involves some suffering, for our kids as well as for us. In practical terms, this means letting children struggle, allowing them to be disappointed, and when failure occurs, helping them to work through it. It means letting your children do tasks that they are physically and mentally capable of doing. Making your 3-year-old’s bed isn’t hovering. Making your 13-year-old’s bed is. We must remember to look for opportunities to take one step back from solving our child’s problems which will help us build the reliant, self-confident kids we want!
I hope we keep our conscience awake and not fall victim to overparenting, and avoid being Helicopter parents!
Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future.” So let’s develop resilience and confidence in them to weather the pitfalls on the road of life. Let’s all be just parents and not “helicopter parents”.
“Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness. For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”