SAPS 182 – Has Covid Brought an End to Helicopter Parenting?

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

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The pressures of the pandemic have forced families to abandon the hypervigilant approach popular since the 1990s. That could help kids become more independent, but also comes with risks.

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about Kim Lucasti who recently made a parenting decision she never would have permitted before the coronavirus pandemic: She let her 14-year-old daughter ride a bike into town without an adult alongside her.

In the past couple of months, Kim who lives in Longport, N.J., has given more freedom to her teenage daughter and 12-year-old son. It’s partly because the kids are restless without their usual scheduled activities, and also because she needs space to handle her own tasks.

I have never left my kids alone in the house so much,” she says. Gone are the days of helicopter parenting: “I have let the helicopter down,” she jokes.

Many experts, myself included, see benefits in giving kids greater independence and freedom to make decisions. It would mark a departure from the hypervigilant approach adopted by many parents since the 1990s, which critics said harmed kids’ ability to develop problem-solving skills, navigate conflict on their own, and create an identity separate from their parents.

I think this may well be a good thing – A helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they “hover overhead”, overseeing every aspect of their child’s life constantly.

Kids need to be kept safe but they also need to be able to spread their wings, grow, develop and make mistakes as well as to feel capable and competent.

The downside

But with a less hands-on style come other concerns: Unrestricted screen time, which doctors worry can lead to inactivity, sleep disruption, and anxiety. And the pandemic has brought myriad other stresses into family life—a lack of routine, schooling, and socialisation among them—whose long-term consequences remain to be seen.

About half of 2,067 adults said they are allowing their children to go to bed later (46%), wake up later (51%), and are allowing more screen time (49%), according to a May survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the University of Phoenix. A separate poll found that nearly 30% of parents said their child-rearing styles are at least somewhat or much more relaxed than normal, according to a June survey of nearly 900 parents by Pittsburgh-based consumer-research firm CivicScience.

Before the pandemic, Meghan Burgoon used to cut sandwiches into stars and pack them into Bento boxes for her children, ages 2 and 4. She tidied up their toys every night. And she rarely let them watch videos on her cellphone.

Now all of that has flown out the window. Exhausted after months of full-time work and no child care, Ms. Burgoon, a 35-year-old director at a sports research and strategy firm who lives in Hingham, Mass., has let go of parenting perfectionism.

“We’re so tired,” she says. “We chuck them our phones so we can get one more hour of sleep.” Toys litter their home. “It looks like a daycare exploded inside our house,” she said

My advice – BALANCE 😊

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Don’t Stew – Ask Sue Parenting Q & A

Q. Now that I am working from home, the children are not maintaining the boundaries of "office" for me. They never go to their father for any complaints or when they fight or are hungry. They keep coming to me even when I am in the middle of a meeting. I am beginning to get frustrated and shout at them. How do I make the boundaries clear without hurting feelings? Rashmika Kolkata from Mumbai
A.

Answer

This must be very exhausting as juggling working from home & looking after children is hard work.

The first place to start is to speak with your husband about your frustrations & ask for his help as you are a team.

Then write down your boundaries & rules so you & then your children & their father are clear on what they are.

Get your children involved in making a poster about your new rules & put it up where everyone can see it.

Explain why it’s important that they don’t disturb you at certain times & put a colourful fun sign up on your door when you need them to be independent from you saying something like ‘Mummy’s busy – speak to Daddy’ with a big smiley face.

Praise & reward your children when they do the right thing & then spend some fun quality time with them each day when you’ve finished work.

Hope that helps

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