Parenting is not an easy task under the best of circumstances, and parenting a child with chronic health challenges is especially tough. Can you avoid the pitfalls of helicopter parenting when you raise a child with health challenges? At what point does caring and resourceful parenting become overbearing and counterproductive?
Research shows that children of helicopter parents do not know how to handle disappointments and challenges. They develop a sense of entitlement that later in life results in chronic disappointment. They also lack emotional regulation skills, which becomes a big problem when they leave the nest. In general, they are more likely to be depressed and report lower satisfaction with their lives overall.
However, helicopter parenting seems to be necessary when raising a child with chronic health conditions, a child who is facing mounting challenges, struggling with pain, school absence, hospital visits, medications and restricted diets, all while trying to enjoy a normal childhood.
When should we advocate for our child? How can we teach our child to advocate for themself? How do we gradually transition this responsibility from parent to child ?
Learning to find the sweet spot, how to be helpful - but not too much, is as easy as walking a tightrope with our eyes shut. How do you walk a challenging path, navigating in the dark, and arrive together with our child to a safe spot? How do you raise a child to be an independent young adult who competently maintains their own wellness?
- We take it one day at a time, know that we will make mistakes and trust that we can correct course and move on.
- We pray, meditate, loose sleep at night, bargain with god, plea with mother nature, do our best and hope for the best.
- We take care of ourselves, try not to neglect our spouse or our healthy children, and give ourselves permission to neglect other things that used to be important before our world changed and our priorities were shuffled.
- We find a community of parents with similar challenges, and they become our source of comfort and advice, our safe place.
- On good days, when we feel like we gained ground, we help others and support them. Helping others empowers us and makes the world a better place because mentoring others creates a ripple effect of growing awareness and positive changes.
You can’t scare me. I have children!
As parents we must gradually learn to stay out our kids’ lives, and this is both liberating and terrifying.
When do we let go? Never do for the child what the child can do for himself. This may be the best guideline when we question ourselves whether we should intervene or let our child handle a situation.
A mother of a young adult who has Crohn’s told me about a transformational moment in their relationship:
“I got it mom, you don’t have to call the doctor for me anymore” he told her on the phone one day, when she called to check how he was doing after a flare.
Her pain of separation, tears of worry, pride and joy for his newly found confidence – all came together into a profound, bitter-sweet life moment. An emotional parenting milestone.
Extremely-involved parenting is not all negative – it can be a blessing in the right circumstances:
It is often the parents who dive into extensive research, experiment with new treatments, that eventually force changes in medical practice. When parent's demands for alternative and supplemental treatment options meets open-minded doctors and scientists, magic happens. Together they can drive novel approaches to manage and treat chronic and autoimmune conditions. I did not use the word magic lightly – I am a part of such a blessed process.
Helicopter parenting may feel like the right thing to do when a child bears the unfair burdens of chronic health challenges, but it should only be done when absolutely needed, and for short periods of time. Extreme involvement produces best results only when focused on a specific target and applied briefly. Constant over-parenting will not help the child avoid future pain, and may hinder their success as an independent adult.
The hardest thing to accept as a parent is that you cannot apply the bandage before the bruise.
Read more about the problems of Helicopter Parenting
- This Is What Happens When Helicopter Kids Grow Up
- "Helicopter parents" stir up anxiety, depression
- When Helicopter Parents Hover Even at Work
- Helicopter Parenting & College Students’ Increased Neediness
- How helicopter parents are ruining college students
- Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up