Parking Your Helicopter
“The study, released Feb. 12, found that behaviors associated with helicopter parenting have a negative impact on the college-aged adult’s feelings of autonomy, competency, and their relationship with their parents. Conventional wisdom in the field of psychology suggests that these three characteristics are necessary for healthy emergence into adulthood.”
-Andrew Averill, The Christian Science Monitor (in article titled “Study Shows Ill Effects of ‘Helicopter Parenting’ on College Students” February 20, 2013
As parents of this generation, we’ve been told that great parenting means being super-involved with our children and always being in constant communication with them. We give them cell phones as soon as we feel they are ready to have a bit of independence, so that we can be assured that they will call or text us the minute they need us. We use apps that help us “track” our teenage kids. We are upset if they don’t text us regularly with updates.
There are many benefits to this parenting style. We know our kids well and have developed close family relationships. We also know each of their homework assignments (and assist with a few of them), the drills they did at soccer practice (because we either coached their team or stayed and watched), and what they ate for snack at school. The downside to our “helicopter” parenting, though, is that it makes it difficult for our children to develop their independence, problem-solving, and decision-making skills, which are important and necessary abilities for autonomous, competent adults.
Hooray for camp! Without a cell phone (or their parent next to them) to immediately turn to when they are faced with a decision, kids learn to use other resources – including their own great minds! Without us watching them and being a reminder of what they’ve been scared of in the past, they challenge themselves and try new things. The confidence that results from their accomplishments and independence can be life changing. According to experienced camper Renee Tucknott, “Camp taught me early in life that I can survive in the world without my parents making my decisions, and I am able to make my own decisions and choices that will impact my life. When I got to college, I experienced some of the same decisions and choices and already knew I could survive on my own.”
As technology has provided us with the ever-increasing ability to be in touch– immediately – with everyone, it has also given the children and young adults of this generation a crutch that we (those of us in our forties and up) did not have. When faced with a decision or problem with a friend, we had to rely on ourselves first and later discuss it with our parents. Now, kids are accustomed to calling their parents before attempting to solve the challenge on their own. At camp, campers have a support network of staff to help them work through challenges, fears, and problems that may come up. They never feel “alone,” but they feel independent from their parents, and a lot of pride comes from that independence.
So, enjoy your child’s stay at camp this summer and rest assured that while your helicopter is parked, your child is spreading their wings!