Overparenting is widely recognized as a problematic approach to raising kids. For nearly a decade, studies have shown how the rise of the “helicopter parent” has been worsening children’s anxiety and school performance in the K-12 years. Now we’re witnessing what happens when the overparented child grows up, and it’s a trainwreck that is painful to watch, but impossible to ignore.
As an inpatient adolescent psychiatrist, I see the most severe cases. Oftentimes, the overly-involved parents have been impeding the development of autonomy in their child for years. The child comes to the hospital anxious and depressed but doesn’t have the tools to make a change. So the parents become even more involved, and the child becomes more dependent and emotionally stunted. It’s a vicious cycle laced with the best intentions.
I try to help these adolescents become more well-adjusted adults by teaching them how to develop an authentic identity that is separate from their parents. I encourage them not to slip into the victim role and blame their parents and the world, because that is both counterproductive and psychologically harmful. If they can be open to taking responsibility for their choices and are willing to develop insight into their strengths and limitations, they will be on the path to self-empowerment and confidence.