'Helicopter parents' prevent children from taking off in adulthood

Posted December 3, 2017 4:40 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 9:55 a.m. EDT

— They are known as "helicopter parents," or moms and dads who hover and try to control everything for their kids. As more millennials reach adulthood, many of these parents are sticking around for college and even the job search.

"It's definitely been a steady uptick in recent years," said Jeff Sackaroff, who is the associate director for the Career Services Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"You know in the past, it would be occasionally you would hear from a parent and now it's a couple of times a month."

He said most of the time it's just a phone call and a parent wanting more information about a company, but sometimes parents do cross the line when it comes to trying to be helpful.

"We've heard of recruiters who would say the student would have the cell phone on the desk and the parent was listening in on an interview," said Sackaroff.

Kendall Strickland works for Robert Half staffing company in Raleigh and she said she has also seen more parental involvement in recent years.

"I have to kind of chuckle a little bit to be honest. There is one part of me that knows of course they are incredibly supportive of their children, but it makes me question the independence of that job seeker," said Strickland.

"The craziest story I have ever had was a parent who accompanied in an interview with us. Not only did they come into the lobby but they asked to come into the interview."

Andrea, who didn't want to use her last name, is a parent of an 18-year-old and considers herself a "recovering helicopter parent." She started going to therapy to improve her relationship with her family when her daughter was in middle school.

"I realize I need to change my ways," said Andrea. " I need to just trust her and realize that I gave her a good foundation and she's going to make mistakes."

She said she would always try to fix problems for her daughter and, while she was just trying to be helpful, she caused some anxiety.

"I think it got to a point where she felt like I wasn't trusting her and that she couldn't make the right decision and I think she got mocked by her friends a little bit."

Mental health professionals are warning "helicopter parenting" could cause more than mocking.

"Parents should realize that even though kids and teens can feel short term relief, research is showing that parents being overly involved can lead to teens and young adults down the road having self doubts," said child psychologist Kristen Wynns. "It's a combination of parents having some of their identity wrapped up in how well their kids are doing and sort of the natural wiring as parents. We don't want to see our kids fail," she said.

Wynns recommends pulling away and being mostly "hands off" by the time the child reaches high school.

"It's almost like in this day in age, parents get stalled and they continue to do what they were doing in the elementary school years all the way through high school graduation."