Nowadays, many teenagers feel that their parents are being too overprotective and suffocating. Helicopter parenting is a term used to describe how some parents pay extremely close attention to a child’s life, to the point of controlling many of the child’s experiences and knowledge. One may argue that doing this will allow the child to grow up safely. Yet, there are adverse consequences of not letting children experience life for themselves.
Where I grew up, helicopter parenting is a common activity that seems normal to adults. The news constantly provided stories of how much stress students face in recent years. I had friends who were always pressured to do well in school, to study more and essentially forgo any social interaction. Seeing the negative effects on them, I can’t help but think that mothers and fathers can be too harsh on their children.
Here are five ways that helicopter parenting can affect you:
1. You’re incredibly dependent on your parents to make decisions
Helicopter parents have a tendency to make important decisions for you instead of allowing you to try it. They’re afraid of letting you do something wrong. They think that if they could prevent disasters from the beginning, they should. If they continue to do this until you grow older, you won’t have any chance to learn to become independent and take charge of life. Everything you do as an adult seems to need your parents’ approval first. However, without being in your position, your parents may not have the best judgment and instead instruct you to do something you dislike. This dependency will stunt your growth as a person and therefore reduce your ability to function in society.
2. You have underdeveloped life skills
Since helicopter parents hover closely to whatever you do, you may not have the chance to develop soft skills that are important in adult life, such as effective communication with others. This is a direct result from being too dependent on others – effect #1. Without the ability to explore the world on your own, you miss out many lessons and experiences that life offers. For example, if your mother decides that you should stop hanging out with a group of friends and you agree without asking why, you’ve missed the chance to learn how to judge a friend and how to recognize bad influences around you.
3. You experience high levels of anxiety and depression
Having someone constantly watching you can result in high levels of anxiety and possibly depression. Several studies and anecdotal data from college counselors strongly imply that college students with parents overly involved in their academic lives are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. The stress is increasing in the younger generation as well. In high school, I personally know friends who consider sleeping at 1 o’clock in the morning ‘early’ and friends who partake in so many extracurricular activities that they don’t get home until late at night.
There are many possible reasons for this high level of anxiety in an academic setting. Perhaps the child feels uncomfortable being watched so closely. They likely fear disappointing their parents and think that satisfying their parents is more important than maintaining their health. Whatever the reason, helicopter parents do make their child more anxious instead of comfortable.
4. You have a low sense of self and self-esteem
Helicopter parents will try to make as many of your important decisions as possible. Without the ability to figure out things for yourself, you don’t develop a healthy sense of identity. Combined with helicopter parents’ tendency to restrict your social life, this would only increase your isolation and loneliness. This typically leads to low self-esteem, especially during your teenage years. You can start to doubt every decision you made, including casual things such as daily choice of clothes and food.
This lack of self-confidence can damage your future because you couldn’t define who you are. As a result, your life goals and career path will become blurry and you won’t be able to live a satisfying life.
5. You resent your parents
As children, you want to learn to be independent and explore the world on your own terms. When parents take away these factors because of their overprotectiveness, you can grow up to resent your parents. You’re robbed of the opportunities to grow up, and being controlled so much can lead to rebellious teenage years. At some point, you may stop listening to your parents and begin to associate with people that can negatively influence you. The bad thing is that despite wanting to be independent, those who break cleanly with their helicopter parents often don’t have the necessary insight to differentiate between ‘bad crowd’ and ‘good crowd.’
In the end, both parties suffer. Your parents are hurt because of your rejection, and you feel suffocated under their watchful eyes. It’s an unhealthy relationship that will only get worse if neither act to change.
There are many solutions to help improve this relationship. Frequent shows of affection and communication are key to a healthy relationship between parents and children, especially once boundaries and expectations have been set. As for parents, they should try to teach their child to be confident while allowing some freedom for individual exploration.
Parents should find a middle ground between a hands-off and hands-on approach. If they completely neglect you, thinking that life will teach you everything you need, then they’re wrong and irresponsible. And yet, smothering you with rules and guidelines isn’t the best method either. If you eel that your parents are helicopter parents and want to change this relationship, you should do it as early as possible so that they can change and support you in life more effectively.