Helicopter parenting: the temptation to ‘hover’ after an accident

Do you feel the need to hover over your children at every step they take? Then you may be ‘helicopter parenting’. But what is a helicopter parent exactly? Here, we look at what this means and why you may be displaying these behaviours post-accident. By following our simple tips, you can learn to control the urge to ‘hover’.

What is a helicopter parent?1

What is a helicopter parent?

The term ‘helicopter parenting’ is used in Foster Cline and Jim Fay’s book, Parenting with Love and Logic. It is used to describe parents who ‘hover’ over their children like a helicopter in every aspect of their lives. They may want to manage all their children’s experiences and feel like they always need to be around to solve any problems that occur. Typically, helicopter parents take too much responsibility for their children’s successes or failures, rather than letting their kids handle things for themselves.

Helicopter parenting and anxiety

After experiencing a traumatic event such as a road traffic accident, you may be experiencing heightened levels of anxiety and fear the worst. Whether it’s you or your child who was involved, it’s common to become more protective, worried or controlling than before.

According to our research, more than half of parents (54%) worried that their relationship with their children had changed as a result of their accident. Helicopter parenting and anxiety go hand in hand, and while you may think you are doing the right thing in protecting them, this form of parenting can have a negative impact on your children in the long term.

Characteristics of helicopter parents

There are some tell-tale signs that you are hovering incessantly. Common characteristics of helicopter parents include being overly strict, constantly worrying about safety, and helping their children to do everything, from their homework to their chores.

For example, if either of you were involved in a road traffic accident, you may be experiencing extreme anxiety about your child travelling in a car or on public transport. If either of you were injured at a sporting event due to poor maintenance or crowd control, then you may worry about them attending events in future. Or if either of you were attacked by someone else’s dog, you may not want them to be around animals going forward.

If you fear the same thing happening again and try to control your children to ease your feelings of worry, then you may be helicopter parenting.

Problems with helicopter parenting

It’s important to acknowledge that helicopter parents behave this way out of love for their children. They want to be there to protect and support them, not to stop them enjoying their lives to the full. This is particularly relevant for those who have suffered in an accident that wasn’t their fault: gut instinct is telling them to be over-protective because of what’s happened.

While helicopter parents have their kids’ best interests at heart, this behaviour may be doing more harm than good. There are various negative effects of helicopter parenting that may be detrimental to your children’s growth.

By incessantly ‘hovering’, you may be stopping your children from having important life experiences and developing as an individual. After all, people learn from experiences and without ever failing, stumbling or making mistakes, your children won’t know how to deal with difficult situations later in life.

Children need the opportunity to problem solve in order to develop confidence in their own abilities. Plus, your children may start to resent your over-protectiveness, putting a strain on your relationship. This is particularly relevant for teenagers who may be embarrassed by you swooping in to save the day.

How to stop being a helicopter parent

There is no quick fix for helicopter parents. As is the case with most bad habits, change doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re wondering how to stop being a helicopter parent, here are some tips that may help you.

  • Let go of perfectionism

It’s important to accept that your children will not do everything perfectly. Instead of taking over to ensure their homework is just right, offer advice and assistance when they ask for it.

 

  • Don’t be tempted to fight their battles

You should absolutely offer support and guidance if they are going through a tough time. But there’s a difference between offering advice and stepping in to fight their battles for them.

 

  • Give them autonomy

If you find yourself doing everything for them, take a step back. Write a list of the things they could and should do for themselves at their age and let them do it. Again, this doesn’t need to happen overnight. Pick one thing to start with and slowly increase this over time.

 

  • Allow them to be adventurous

If they ask to do something which is suitable for their age and abilities, let them. As their confidence grows, so too does their ambition, and it’s important for them (and you) to embrace this.

The key is to ensure you are there for your children when they need you, but let them seek help on their own terms, rather than forcing it on them. Take advantage of any opportunities in which your children can be independent, learn a new skill or be adventurous. This will help them to grow into a resilient, confident person.

 

If you have been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault and your finances, mental health and personal relationships have been affected, we may be able to help. Get in touch with us today on 0800 376 0150 to speak to our friendly team.

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