Turns out, kids with "helicopter parents" are more likely to suffer from anxiety
There is no denying that parents nowadays are far more "helicopter-y" in their style of parenting than ever before.
In a bid to keep our kids safe and out of harm's way, children today are far less likely to just run out in the mornings and be gone playing all day (like I know I did growing up). Parents of today are also far more involved when it comes to making sure our kids are accomplished and successful in both school and extra-curricular activities, and the pressure to succeed that kids today are facing is far greater than any of us adults were faced with at the same age.
The thing is, much as we all, of course, want our children to do well in life, it turns out that our "intrusiveness” can actually be rather harmful to our children, making them more self-critical, anxious, and even depressed.
A new study, conducted by the National University of Singapore, found that not letting children solve problems themselves and figure things out their own way could actually lead to very serious mental health issues.
The study assessed 263 seven-year-olds from 10 schools over four years between 2010 and 2014. Parental intrusiveness was assessed in the first year of the study using a game played by the child (who was then 7 years old) with the parent present. In the game, the child had to solve puzzles within a time limit, and the parent was told that he or she could help the child whenever they wanted. An example of “highly intrusive” parental behaviour would be when the parent took over the game to retract a move made by the child.
The purpose of the task was simply to observe whether the parent interfered with the child’s problem-solving attempts, regardless of the child’s actual needs.
Subsequent assessments on the children were carried out at ages 8, 9, and 11. And surprisingly, results showed that about 60 percent of the children involved were classified as high and/or increasing in self-criticalness, while 78 percent of the children were classified as high in “socially prescribed perfectionism.”
These findings highlighted how, in a society that emphasizes academic excellence, parents may set unrealistically high expectations on their children. And, unsurprisingly maybe, as a result, a sizable amount of kids may become fearful of making mistakes. “Also, because they are supposed to be ‘perfect,’ they can become disinclined to admit failures and inadequacies and seek help when needed, further exacerbating their risk for emotional problems,” explained Assistant Professor Ryan Hong, who headed up the study.
More worryingly, the study went on to say that children with high levels of self-criticism were at an increased risk of developing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or even suicide.