Troop 501 Eagle Scouts

Andrew Jackson - 2011

Project: Recycle Bins at the World Bird Sanctuary

William "Billy" John Fisher, III - 2012

Project: Fire Truck Reading Center at Arnold Branch Library

Christopher "Blake" Hufford - 2013

Project: Flag Pole Installation and Beautification Project at New Hope United Methodist Church

Paul Morton Claeys - 2013

Project: Playground Renovation and Update; Construction and Installation of Benches at New Hope United Methodist Church's Preschool

Drew Vitello - 2014

Project: Development and Installation of interactive, 3-D, educational playground mural at New Hope United Methodist Church's Preschool

How to Stop Worrying and Avoid Helicopter Parenting: Don’t Do These 6 Things

by Debbie Pincus MS LMHC, How to Stop Worrying and Avoid Helicopter Parenting: Don’t Do These 6 Things

“When I was young, my mom and dad sent us out to play in the morning in our neighborhood, and we didn’t come home until dinner time,” a friend said to me recently. “But times have changed. I feel like I have to keep constant tabs on my kids. I wish they could have the kind of childhood I did, but what can I do? I need to make sure they’re safe.”

Here’s the truth: When you expect something, you will find it. And when you try to fix what you worry about, you inadvertently create it.

Times have changed, and of course we all want to protect our kids and make sure they’re safe and healthy. Where this can become problematic is when parents attempt to remove obstacles in their child’s path, or try to ensure that their kids will never experience pain, disappointment or discomfort. Enter the helicopter parent.

Where Does the Anxiety about Our Kids Come from?What is at the heart of most helicopter parenting? Anxiety—about our kids’ safety, happiness, and ability to navigate in the world. Many of us spend a large percentage of our time second guessing every move we make as parents. Our minds cause us to project our worst fears onto our children – we love them so much and we want to protect them from any harm. Over time, we can become hyper vigilant for any signs of trouble in an attempt to cut it off at the pass. This constant vigilance can become larger-than-life, though, because we start imagining and projecting things we shouldn’t on to our kids.

If our kids are unhappy, we might overreact and automatically try to make them feel okay. If they are uncertain, we may mistake this for deep insecurity and shower them with praise and assurance. We “futurize” negative outcomes when our imaginations get activated. In fact, it’s been proven that our brains are wired in a way that makes negatives stick like Velcro, while the positives slide off like Teflon. Worry kicks in. “Is my kid really okay? Is he too aggressive, too quiet, too loud, too tall, too short?  Is he showing signs of insecurity? Is he acting like my brother, who didn’t turn out so well? Do I need to give my daughter more attention since I didn’t get enough as a child?”

Listen, none of us wants to “screw up” our kids…but the absolute surest way to do just that is to constantly worry about screwing them up! That is the frustrating irony. We want to do it all right, but sometimes our insecurity about getting it all wrong leads to hovering and tracking our kids for the first signs of expected trouble. Here’s the truth: When you expect something, you will find it. And when you try to fix what you worry about, you inadvertently create it. This is a self -fulfilling prophecy in action, and it’s exactly what leads kids to feel self conscious and insecure about themselves. You see, children often have the belief that, “If my parent is worrying about me, then there must be something about me to be worried about!”

The “Worried-Driven Cycle”The “Worried-Driven Cycle” is the way anxiety moves through relationships. Here’s a scenario to explain how the “Worried – Driven Cycle” can go with a parent and child:

Karen is the mom of two boys. She worries about screwing them up and having them grow up to be insecure. She is especially anxious about her 15-year-old son, Jack, who is defiant, acts out and has problems with authority.

She nervously “over-focuses” on Jack (and always has) and looks for signs of his insecurity and low self-esteem. Karen is hyper vigilant for any sign that he’s not okay—and then when she feels her fears are confirmed, she either tiptoes around him, or tries to fix things for him.

After years of this, Jack has come to rely on her focus and attentiveness. Even though he would never say so, he is both anxious about her concern about him and reliant on her constant attention and focus.

As a teen, Jack has become anxious about himself and “other- focused”—reliant on attention and focus from others for his sense of worth—the pattern he learned from his relationship with his parents. He comes to need “other validation” in order to feel good about himself in all of his relationships, and feels insecure if he doesn’t get it. This is exactly what his parent feared would occur and tried desperately to prevent by hovering, doing too much and removing obstacles from his path.

What can we learn from this scenario? Stop looking for evidence to confirm your worries. Realize that your worrying gets in your child’s way.

6 Steps to Avoid Over-worrying and Helicopter Parenting

Here are 6 DON’Ts when it comes to over-worrying, over-focusing on your child and being a helicopter parent:

1. Don’t hover over your child.  Don’t tie your 5-year-old’s shoes when she can tie her own, or dress her when she can dress herself. Avoid hovering and holding her back from normal “risks” a child would take at her age level. It’s also not a good idea to talk to her teachers incessantly, or answer all your child’s questions so she doesn’t have to think of answers for herself. If she hesitates to make her own decisions, try not to jump in and do it for her—let her reason it out on her own if she can. Allow her to feel discomfort or pain; it’s part of growing up. Don’t prevent her from struggling or rescue her from life’s hardships. Kids can’t learn if their parents are always doing it for them.

2. Don’t put your worry on your child’s back. Don’t focus on your child morning, noon and night, imagining all the worst outcomes. Let go of negative thoughts about her future, like, “What if she doesn’t amount to anything when she grows up?  Is her shyness a sign of her lack of confidence?” Don’t interrogate her when you get anxious, and keep asking, “Are you okay? “ “Are you sure?” Or “That looks difficult. Are you sure you can handle that?” Or “Do you have anyone to play with at recess? Who?” Don’t look for evidence to confirm your worst fears about your child.3. Don’t make your child the center of your universe.  Don’t try to get all your emotional needs met by your child. If you’re there at his beck-and-call and over-functioning for him (in other words, doing for him what he can do for himself), he’ll have a hard time functioning on his own in the world. Most importantly, don’t allow his achievements to determine your self-worth and validation as a parent.

4. Don’t label your child.  Negatively (or even positively) labeling your child is not a good idea, because it can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, or push her into a box that isn’t right for her. Don’t remind one of your kids that she is “the pretty one” or “the funny one” or “the lazy one” or “the one who will turn out just like Dad.” Avoid saying, “You never…” or “You always…” Let go of deciding now who your child is or will become; nobody knows yet, not even your child. Allow yourself to imagine other possibilities. The bottom line is that words are powerful, so don’t make negative predictions about what your child will become.

5. Don’t take it personally if your child doesn’t agree with you, or does things differently from you. If you get in your child’s head, he won’t be able to hear his own thoughts and beliefs. Even if he thinks differently than you, don’t argue with him over it—instead, invite him to tell you more. Don’t shut him down when he has ideas or opinions that are different from the ones you would like him to have, or insist on having the last word. And finally, try not to take things personally if he chooses a different path in life than the one you thought he would take.6. Don’t focus on your child as a way of not having to deal with your own struggles. This is a big one, and can be very hard for parents. Try not to get so involved in your child’s life that you neglect your own. Don’t think or worry about your child so much that you avoid thinking about your own life, your work or your adult relationships. What I often say to parents is, “Don’t focus so much on taking care of your child’s garden that you forget to tend to your own.”

What’s a better approach? Let your child experience the consequences of his actions. Let go of constant worry as a parent, and realize you can’t control everything your kids do—you can only respond to how they behave. Try to see their strengths as well as their struggles. You can avoid over-worrying and being a helicopter parent if you work on developing strong relationships with your children by getting to know them for who they are. Allow them to make their own mistakes, face their own consequences, and solve their own problems. This will allow you to let go of hovering, doing too much for your kids and worrying about them all the time, and best of all, it will help you become a calmer, more peaceful parent.

Making The Back-To-School Transition

Whether their summer was jam-packed with activities or filled with complaints about being bored with nothing to do, kids often have a tough time making the back-to-school transition.

Battling the Butterflies

As with any new or potentially unsettling situation — like starting school for the first time or entering a new grade or new school — allow kids time to adjust. Remind them that everyone feels a little nervous about the first day of school and that it will all become an everyday routine in no time.

Emphasize the positive things about going back to school, such as hanging out with old friends, meeting new classmates, buying cool school supplies, getting involved in sports and other activities, and showing off the new duds (or snazzy accessories if your child has to wear a uniform).

It’s also important to talk to kids about what worries them and offer reassurance: Are they afraid they won’t make new friends or get along with their teachers? Is the thought of schoolwork stressing them out? Are they worried about the bully from last year?

Consider adjusting your own schedule to make the transition smoother. If possible, it’s especially beneficial for parents to be home at the end of the schoolday for the first week. But many working moms and dads just don’t have that flexibility. Instead, try to arrange your evenings so you can give kids as much time as they need, especially during those first few days.

If your child is starting a new school, contact the school before the first day to arrange a visit. And ask if your child can be paired up with another student, or “buddy,” and if you can be connected with other new parents. This will help both of you with the adjustment to new people and surroundings. Some schools give kids maps to use until things become more familiar.

To help ease back-to-school butterflies, try to transition kids into a consistent school-night routine a few weeks before school starts. Also make sure that they:

  • get enough sleep (establish a reasonable bedtime so that they’ll be well-rested and ready to learn in the morning)
  • eat a healthy breakfast (they’re more alert and do better in school if they eat a good breakfast every day)
  • write down the need-to-know info to help them remember details such as their locker combination, what time classes and lunch start and end, their homeroom and classroom numbers, teachers’ and/or bus drivers’ names, etc.
  • use a wall calendar or personal planner to record when assignments are due, tests will be given, extracurricular practices and rehearsals will be held, etc.
  • have them organize and set out what they need the night before (homework and books should be put in their backpacks by the door and clothes should be laid out in their bedrooms)

Although it’s normal to be anxious in any new situation, a few kids develop real physical symptoms, such as headaches or stomachaches, associated with the start of school. If you’re concerned that your child’s worries go beyond the normal back-to-school jitters, speak with your child’s doctor, teacher, or school counselor.

Back-to-School To-Do’s

Parents themselves can be a little nervous about the first day of school, especially if they’re seeing their little one off for the first time or if their child will be attending a new school.

To help make going to school a little easier on everyone, here’s a handy checklist:

What to wear, bring, and eat:

  • Does the school have a dress code? Are there certain things they can’t wear?
  • Will kids need a change of clothes for PE or art class?
  • Do your kids have a safe backpack that’s lightweight, with two wide, padded shoulder straps, a waist belt, a padded back, and multiple compartments?
  • Do kids know not to overload their backpacks and to stow them safely at home and school?
  • Will your kids buy lunch at school or bring it from home? If they buy a school lunch, how much will it cost per day or per week? Do you have a weekly or monthly menu of what will be served?
  • Have you stocked up on all of the necessary school supplies? (Letting kids pick out a new lunchbox and a set of pens, pencils, binders, etc., helps get them geared up for going back to school.)

Medical issues:

  • Have your kids received all necessary immunizations?
  • Have you filled out any forms that the school has sent home, such as emergency contact and health information forms?
  • Do the school nurse and teachers know about any medical conditions your child may have, particularly food allergies, asthma, diabetes, and any other conditions that may need to be managed during the school day?
  • Have you made arrangements with the school nurse to administer any medications your child might need?
  • Do the teachers know about any conditions that may affect how your child learns? For example, kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should be seated in the front of the room, and a child with vision problems should sit near the board.

Transportation and safety:

  • Do you know what time school starts and how your kids will get there?
  • If they’re riding the bus, do you know where the bus stop is and what time they’ll be picked up and dropped off?
  • Do you know where the school’s designated drop-off and pick-up area is?
  • Are there any regulations on bicycles or other vehicles, such as scooters?
  • Have you gone over traffic safety information, stressing the importance of crossing at the crosswalk (never between parked cars or in front of the school bus), waiting for the bus to stop before approaching it, and understanding traffic signals and signs?
  • If your child walks or bikes to school, have you mapped out a safe route? Does your child understand that it’s never OK to accept rides, candy, or any other type of invitation from strangers?

What About After School?

Figuring out where kids will go after school can be a challenge, especially if both parents work. Depending on a child’s age and maturity, you may need to arrange for after-school transportation and care.

It’s important for younger kids and preteens to have some sort of supervision from a responsible adult. If you can’t be there as soon as school’s out, ask a reliable, responsible relative, friend, or neighbor to help out. If they’re to be picked up after school, make sure your kids know where to meet you or another caregiver.

Although it might seem like kids who are approaching adolescence are becoming mature enough to start watching themselves after school, even kids as old as 11 or 12 may not be ready to be left alone.

If your kids or teens are home alone in the afternoons, it’s important to establish clear rules:

  • Set a time when they’re expected to arrive home from school.
  • Have them check in with you or a neighbor as soon as they get home.
  • Specify who, if anyone at all, is allowed in your home when you’re not there.
  • Make sure they know to never open the door for strangers.
  • Make sure they know what to do in an emergency.

To ensure that kids are safe and entertained after school, look into after-school programs. Some are run by private businesses, others are organized by the schools themselves, places of worship, police athletic leagues, YMCAs, community and youth centers, and parks and recreation departments.

Getting involved in after-school activities:

  • offers kids a productive alternative to watching TV or playing video games
  • provides some adult supervision when parents can’t be around after school
  • helps develop kids’ interests and talents
  • introduces kids to new people and helps them develop their social skills
  • gives kids a feeling of involvement
  • keeps kids out of trouble

Be sure to look into the child-staff ratio at any after-school program (in other words, make sure that there are enough adults per child) and that the facilities are safe, indoors and out. And kids should know when and who will pick them up when school lets out and when the after-school program ends.

Also, make sure after-school commitments allow kids enough time to complete school assignments. Keep an eye on their schedules to make sure there’s enough time for both schoolwork and home life.

Helping Homework

Love it or hate it, homework is a very important part of school. To help kids get back into the scholastic swing of things:

  • Make sure there’s a quiet place that’s free of distractions to do homework.
  • Don’t let kids watch TV when doing homework or studying. Set rules for when homework and studying need to be done, and when the TV can be turned on and should be turned off. The less TV, the better, especially on school nights.
  • If your kids are involved in social media, be sure to limit the time spent on these activities during homework time.
  • Keep text messaging to a minimum to avoid frequent interruptions.
  • Never do their homework or projects yourself. Instead, make it clear that you’re always available to help or answer any questions.
  • Review homework assignments nightly, not necessarily to check up, but to make sure they understand everything.

Encourage kids to:

  • develop good work habits from the get-go, like taking notes, writing down assignments, and turning in homework on time
  • take their time with schoolwork
  • ask the teacher if they don’t understand something

To ensure kids get the most out of school, maintain an open channel of communication with the teachers by e-mailing or talking with them throughout the school year to discuss your kids’ academic strengths as well as weaknesses.

Most of all, whether it’s the first day of school or the last, make sure your kids know you’re there to listen to their feelings and concerns, and that you don’t expect perfection — only that they try their best.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: September 2010