There is a fine line between involved parents and over involved parents. When parents start making every decision for the child, it is no longer parenting. A helicopter parent decides the clothes, the subjects to study; the extra curricular and in most cases also the friends the child should have. The child is robbed from thinking. When such a child goes to college, he becomes depressed.
Up till high school a overparented kid has done everything right but hasn’t ever done the basic thing of existence- “taking responsibility for his decisions.” If the child got low grades in an exam, the helicopter parent dissected the whole exam for him.
Community service is one of the essential proponents of a college application. The point of community service is to help the child mature, teach him empathy, and help him adjust to unfamiliar situations. But when a helicopter parent gets involved, the child still does the hours but without any thought or interest. Since the parent is driving the service, the child stops thinking.
The overparented kid does not choose an extra curricular because he is interested in the activity. The helicopter parent thinks for him. The parent decides the activity that will look good on a college application and the overparented kid follows muted.
Overparented kids are almost always high performing students in high school. The helicopter parent watches the kid like a hawk preventing any kind of failure.
Then comes real world. The overparented kid goes to college and alas the parent has to leave him loose in the vast campus alone, incapable of making any decisions. This is when these overparented kids start suffering from depression.
They feel inadequate in new situations, they might encounter—a roommate who has a different sense of “clean,” a professor who wants a revision to the paper but won’t say specifically what is “wrong,” a friend who isn’t being so friendly anymore, a choice between doing a summer seminar or service project but not both—they can have real difficulty knowing how to handle the disagreement, the uncertainty, the hurt feelings, or the decision-making process. This inability to cope—to sit with some discomfort, think about options, talk it through with someone, make a decision—can become a problem unto itself.
The helicopter parent negates the basic psychological need of a human being-“self determination.” The first and most important component of self-determination theory is the basic need for autonomy, or feeling free to make one’s own choices. The second component is the basic need for competence, or feeling confident in one’s abilities and accomplishments. The third component, relatedness, involves feeling that one is part of genuinely caring relationships. When these basic psychological needs are met, a person experiences greater life satisfaction and lower levels of depression .If parents are over-controlling, it may reduce their child’s sense of autonomy and competence and undermine their relationship with their child.
Written by Suchitra Sharma