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Are You Helicopter Parenting Your High School Child?

Mother and daughterTiger moms. Momma dragons. Wolf fathers. Panda papas. Free range parents. Bulldozer parents. Lawnmower parents. Helicopter parents. Some parents, whether they realize it or not, adopt one of these styles, with the best of intentions. Helicopter parents in particular take a very active role in their child’s life. But what happens to those parents when their children enter high school?

In today’s post, Dr. Adam Fisher discusses specifically the pros and cons of “helicopter parenting,” and offers two key areas a parent can think about as they navigate their child’s adolescent years.

You care. A lot. You want to make sure your adolescent is successful and happy. You freely give advice, provide direction, and try to minimize negative outcomes in your child’s life. You don’t like risk, but what parent does? You work to protect your child at every step. You are caring and involved, and that is great.

During your child’s younger years, maybe you were a room parent or a chaperone for field trips. You may have gone to every practice. Maybe that worked well for your child at that age. There may be problems with it in adolescence, however. Having an over-involved, helicopter parent during late adolescence and young adulthood has been found to be associated with lower self-efficacy, difficulty managing emotions, a greater sense of entitlement, lower levels of trust and connection in peer relationships, and worse parent-child communication, just to name a few.

As you parent during your child’s high school years, here are two things to think about while adapting to a style of parenting that fits and grows with your child.

  1. Your own emotional world. What happens inside you when your teen pushes you away or makes a bid for more freedom? Does your worry lead you to meet your child’s needs for a new level of freedom? Or is your worry harmful? What’s appropriate for your child at this age? Although each teen is different, many need additional support in exploring their world and adapting to high school away from their parents. Consider what drives your parenting – your fear or your child’s needs?
  2. Being “good enough.” Good enough parenting is all about having problems and then working to fix them. When you’re too intrusive into your teen’s life, you can step back. If you don’t have clear limits and boundaries, you can clarify. And if you have too many limits, negotiate. This is all “good enough.” Whether your child is 3, 13, or 23, it’s not too late to better prepare them for adulthood. Resist the urge to tell your teen that you’re changing your parenting style. Know that it’s not too late, and quietly get to work.


Dr. Fisher has extensive training and experience in working with families with adolescents labeled as having “behavior problems.” His areas of expertise are in attachment-based parent education, couples and sex therapy, and struggles related to religion or spirituality. Learn more about Dr. Fisher on our website.

The Family Institute offers therapy and counseling for children, adolescents, parents and families at our Evanston, downtown Chicago, Westchester and Northbrook locations. Visit our website to learn more.

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