Could you be a Helicopter Parent?
In our quest to be perfect, or at least good enough, we parents can fall into traps that we don’t even see. In parenting, there are so many fine lines: how much is helping and how much is hurting? When you have a child with ADHD, it makes the situation even more difficult to discern because it’s not always clear which behaviors are ADHD-driven and which are just willfulness. And what do we do with those ADHD behaviors? How much or how little are we supposed to help? Have we become Helicopter Parents?
Many parents I talk to are stressed out because they’re doing everything they can think of and nothing is changing. Truth be told, it’s rare for me to meet an ADHD parent that is doing too little. Most parents of ADHD kids do too much! I’m not a fan of the phrase “Work smarter, not harder,” but I’d like to coin something similar for parenting ADHD kids: “Parent clearer, not harder.” It’s not that you need to be smarter; it’s that your message can be muddled, especially when received by an ADHD child or teen!
Here are 5 ways to tell if you’re “helicoptering” (doing too much) and what to do about it:
- You give your children a task and, because they don’t do it well, you do it yourself or fix it.
- You are on the phone weekly (if not daily) because your children are missing assignments.
- You are neglecting your own important tasks/schedule/actions because of your children’s habits/behaviors.
- You think that you’re the only one that understands and can help your child.
- You do all the chores and/or are in charge of routine behaviors, including cleaning your children’s rooms, making their meals, doing their laundry, waking them up, picking out their clothes, driving them to school, picking them up, and so on.
I know many of you are asking, “Well, what are we supposed to do if they can’t or don’t do this themselves?”
Hear me out. The answer is to stop thinking in terms of black and white:
- If you want something done a certain way, you need to be verrrrrry clear about it, even going as far as writing down the necessary steps. Then let them do their best, even if it’s not your best. If you are a “neat freak,” it’s best not to give your children chores like cleaning up spaces that you care about. For example, if you insist on a clean bathroom and your children don’t clean it right, give them a different chore or teach them how you want it. But keep in mind that “clean” is not a black and white issue, unless you’re taking bacterial cultures!!
- There should be a system in place whereby the parent and the school have regular communication. In addition, children can take some responsibility in this process as well. I always advocate for a school plan to stipulate that if an assignment won’t be done on time, the student needs to communicate this to the teacher and ask for an extra day. This can be in the form of an email, for example. For younger kids, parents and students can write an email together. Taking all the responsibility will just make your life more stressful and dis-ables children.
- Often parents talk to me about being late for work because their child can’t get out the door on time. You can’t be late to work and they need to know that. Work is important, just like school. If you’re not able to make it to your own appointments, find a different solution. The Helicopter Parent has a hard time letting this go because he/she wants to look good to everyone. You may need to carpool, you may need to change the morning routine a bit, you may need to leave and head to work without your child.
- Not getting help for your child, in whatever form may be available, will only make your life harder. There are thousands of people who are well-equipped to help you mange the different situations you’re facing as the parent of an ADHD child. Minimally, you can ask a question, right? (More on this below).
- There’s a better way! Involve your kids in these chores and tasks. Even just a little bit. It’s important that you not be taken for granted. Figure out how you can split the activities into distinct steps and have your children choose one or two steps to do themselves.
“Helicopter” vs. “Intensive Care”
It’s important to distinguish between “Intensive Care” level parenting and “Helicopter Parenting.” Helicopter Parenting is more about the parent and his/her anxiety levels: Do I look good? Am I behaving the way a good parent should behave? Will my child be a failure? Will he ever learn to clean house? Will she ever learn to cook for herself? When these thoughts arise, we may be inclined to take over and make sure that we’re showing how to do things the right way.
Notice the word, “Showing”? As far as learning goes, showing is only the first step. DOING is what demonstrates ability. Helicopter Parents don’t let their children DO.
Now there are situations, certainly with many ADHD families, where intensive care is needed. When parents are feeling swamped, when kids are full of anxiety, when self-esteem is in the dumps and ADHD is having a minor crisis, those are situations where guidance is necessary. Still, #4 holds true: we are not the only ones who understand and can help our children. Life is full of opportunities for your children, and there are always people available to lend a hand.
The trick is to 1) Ask for help (even if you ask as a prayer), and 2) Don’t decide ahead of time when that help should look like or who it should look like.
For example, when your child is having trouble in school and the IEP isn’t really working, it may not be the school that gives you the answer you need. It may be a teleclass, it may be a book, it may be a person. It might be that you mention your concern to a friend or colleague and it turns out that they know someone who can help you.
If your child is being bullied, you may need to really push the school to do something about it. You may need to talk to the PTA board to see what they think. Or you can talk to a therapist, a coach, or even a policeman or sheriff. You never know what help you’ll get by sharing your concerns and gathering information.
Intensive Care is my specialty!
There are times when ADHD gets the best of a family:
- there’s back-talk, eye-rolling, and snarky attitudes
- so many assignments are missing that it’s depressing just to tackle even one of them
- there is discord between spouses regarding how to handle your child’s ADHD
- there is general exhaustion, frustration, confusion, disappointment, and fear of the future
- you can’t get your child to DO anything without a struggle or an argument
Your child needs to learn how to channel his or her ADHD traits and gifts, and parents need to learn how to support this in a way that works for each individual child.
That’s where I come in – I can analyze the personality traits at work, the way ADHD shows up in your child, and your family’s innate strengths. I create structures for your family, first, and then I can guide and support you all while you implement these new habits and behaviors into your family. I’ll be there through the initial obstacles and bumps in the road, and I can be there beyond this. The benefit to you is that you no longer have to guess at what might work. You’ll have structures in places to last for years and you’ll have a closer relationship with your family because you won’t be wasting time trying to force your children to get their butts in gear! They’ll understand how the family works because we’ll create the system together.
If relief and transformation interest you, schedule a free 50-minute phone consultation and let’s take it from there.
It can’t hurt to ask, right?
Copyright 2016 Margit Crane/Yafa Luria. All Rights Reserved
What I’ve learned about ADHD is that, without a treatment plan (medication is a treatment, not a treatment plan), ADHD children (and their families) can suffer into adulthood, feeling disoriented, unfocused, discouraged, and hopeless. It breaks my heart to see people who have no idea how wonderful they are, so my mission is to nurture and guide a generation of ADHD teens (and the parents who love them!) so that they can be the leaders, the creators, the great thinkers that they are destined to be.
So what about that nagging concern? Is it time to schedule a free 50-minute phone consultation? In 30 minutes we can discuss what your next best steps should be. No judgment, no guilt, no obligation. Just relief, hope, and optimism for the future.