Helicopter Parenting: Causing the Harm You’re Trying to Prevent

Helicopter Parenting: Causing the Harm You’re Trying to Prevent

“You’re hovering over me!” is an outrage most parents are familiar with. Watching a child transition through age is a complicated time for parents. Our watchful eyes have to be adjusted. We’re no longer there to catch every fall, help with every assignment, and dry every tear. For some parents, this results in codependent behavior. Others fall into a new and particularly troubling identity: helicopter parents.

Helicopters hover. It is what they are designed to do. Like a bird catching the right current of air, a helicopter can essentially stand still above its target. Helicopter parents is a term which describes parents who hover over their children; probing, inquiring, investigating, and generally being controlling. Helicopter parents lose their sense of appropriate and healthy boundaries when they become afraid of losing their children. Unknowingly, they begin to push their children away. Most problematically, they wear on their children’s mental health, according to The Big Think.

Developing life skills in an important factor in developing the autonomy and self-esteem each child needs to evolve into a healthy, happy, and independent adult. The article cites How To Raise An Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, “The data emerging about the mental health of our kids only confirms the harm done by asking so little of them when it comes to life skills, yet so much of them when it comes to adhering to the academic plans we’ve made for them.” Helicopter parents tend to become obsessed with the surface details of their child’s life, as though grades and building a resume is more important than their feelings and well being. “These constricting forms of parenting come with serious psychological consequences,” the article explains. “Not only are they a severe life-skills retardant, but also extreme levels of parental control correlate to mental health problems for college-age kids.”

Many reports have pinpointed helicopter parenting as a major cause of mental illness and an inability to cope with responsibility, colloquially referred to as “adulting”. Children of helicopter parents turn into angst-filled adolescents who might display symptoms of poor mental health. In an effort to please their overbearing parents, children might self-harm or self-destruct in unobvious ways. Stifling under the pressure, when they reach college, many participate in extreme disorder; substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, or anxiety. Some areas of the US where there are high academic expectations have seen repeated clusters of adolescent suicide.


Confronting responsibility for a child’s mental illness is challenging for parents who wanted nothing but the best for their child. Healing addiction and family trauma is part of the recovery process. Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center was founded upon the healing experience of recovery as a family. We know it’s possible for everyone to recover. Call us today for more information on our treatment programs for adolescent addictions and family therapy programming. 1-662-598-4214.