The term is generally only applied to parents. To be a ‘helicopter parent” is to be one who is excessively involved in the life of their child; overprotective and hovering, ready to swoop in for the rescue at the first sign of trouble. The term has mostly negative connotations because these parents don’t often give their children a chance to learn how to navigate certain challenges on their own. Some argue that helicopter parenting has led to a generation less apt to see a world beyond themselves—they are defined by their own self-indulgence.
But what does it mean to be a helicopter child? Keeping a close eye on aging parents may become a necessity in many families, but hovering too closely might also cause problems.
There is a definite tension between being a caring child who wants the best for his or her parents and that of the helicopter child who doesn’t fully realize that swooping in to protect aging loved ones can also deprive them of some of their independence and even reduce them to child-like status. As they begin to reach into their eighth or ninth decade, children can easily become hyper-vigilant and frustrate not only their parents, but also their care-givers in hospitals or long-term care facilities.
One way to avoid becoming a helicopter child is to begin discussions with parents about the type of medical care they would like to receive as they face the reality of aging. Helping parents understand their options and make informed decisions provides an opportunity for them to practice independence.
Another way to encourage your elder parent is pick which battles are truly important. In the grand scheme of things, you want your parents to take care of themselves hygienically, nutritionally, and so forth. You don’t need to worry so much if they are under-tipping a waitress or buying a few too many cans of corned beef hash at the store. But if your aging parent is neglecting to take their medications or forgetting how to get home while taking a walk in the neighborhood, then you need to hover a bit more closely and consider your options for elder care.
As a child of an aging parent, you also need to guard your own interests and do what you can to seek support and avoid burn out. If the tendency is to be a helicopter child, prepare for your empty nesting to be the start of parenting—again. And your parents will resist your need to hover if they sense it is infringing on the bit of independence they still retain.
When you have questions about caring for the aging members of your family, do not hesitate to reach out to the team at Bridge Care. We are here to be a resource to you as you work with your parents and consider their short term and long term options. We aren’t an alternative to the hovering child by overwhelming your loved ones, but we will offer guidance on how you can continue to honor your parents and help them in the decision making process as they move into a season of life where they are able to do less and less of this type of deliberation.
Contact us today for a consultation!