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The Microcosm of the Helicopter Parent

The Baby Boomers came from a school of thought that you need to respect your elders and work hard for what you want. Parents applied corporal punishment and were not prototypically affectionate towards their children. Parents would show love by giving money or buying gifts that were special. As a result of this type of upbringing, the child and soon to be adult developed an emotional and behavioral pattern that felt empty, not cared for and ultimately alone. These individuals felt disconnected with their parents and desired more affection and emotional intimacy. Unconsciously, they sought a goal in life as parents, to be more affectionate and invested in their child so that they would not feel the same as they did when they were a child. Parents would take on the role of savior regarding their children's issues to make them feel safe and nurtured. 

The problem is that a large majority of Generation X, Y, & Z people do not have the tools to communicate or express intimacy in a healthy pattern. In good or bad, we take on a majority of our parents coping mechanisms to manage life. One area that appeared positive for a Generation X, Y, & Z parent is that love was expressed through money by their parents. The equation is that money = love and the more I spend it on them or give it to them, the more they will feel loved. 

A new parent formulates a concept that a child must be taken care of (loved) and not feel alone. With this conceptualization, a parent would naturally manifest over protective behaviors. The hovering begins at an early age, to instill a sense of love and confidence (false) in a child. Parents occupy their time making their child feel special, awarding them wherever they can and buying them the greatest toys/gifts to feel loved. We are in a society where most kids get trophies for participating and where kids parties need to be the best to make the child feel special and ultimately better than others. 

A parent attempts to manage all their child's affairs so they don't feel small or experience failure & shame. Over time the parent has developed a negative pattern of rescuing and implementing a false sense of self in their child. The result becomes kids who struggle to hold jobs and relationships. The hovered child becomes overwhelmed in the face of problems and eventually develops anxiety and self-doubt. That child ultimately feels alone with their emotions since they cannot share with their parent because they will not allow them to feel that emotion. Thus, the cycle is continued. The child feels exactly same as the Generation X, Y, & Z parent. What it leaves is a guilty parent who feels that their only way to relate or take care of their child is through money. Therefore, they spend years buying their child out of trouble and problems with no recourse or positive development.

When working with parents I remind them to think of the characteristics that make them strong/healthy individuals such as persistence, confidence, and perseverance. I have them look at how someone develops those traits and develop constructs on how to nurture and exude those characteristics on a daily basis. Unfortunately life is full of disappointments and the more we experience roadblocks, loses, and or failures the more resilient you will be in life. Yet if you don't experience your share of the negative than you don't have the tools to overcome potential problems. My goal with parents is allow them to become role models for their kids and develop communication patterns that make their children feel supported and understood. Ultimately, they need to let their children fail and let them find their own way. Being a parent is difficult, and there is not such thing as a perfect one. If they can avoid the traps and maladaptive patterns than they are fulfilling their role. In time they can come to terms with the enabler they have become and shutdown the helicopter they have operated.


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