By Dr. Emily Dean
There was a day in my ministry to students when I would inwardly chuckle at them. You could spot them from a mile away. They had to be everywhere and know everything their children were doing to the point of being obsessive about it. There’s even a name for it. In youth ministry world we call them Helicopter Moms because they are known for swooping in whenever any problem occurs. It seems to be a growing trend for Millennial parents. Of course, I would never be one of THOSE moms…that is, until I became one. It was easy to think I would not be tempted to hover over my child’s every move when she cooed at me from the infant carrier. At that point we had total control over her every move. Then she got older. And the rotors started spinning.
I’ve been on both sides, ministering to moms who were struggling with Helicopter Mom tendencies and as a mom struggling with them myself. If you find yourself ministering to parents, here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way.
1) Give Helicopter Parents a Break
One thing to remember is that you may not know the backgrounds of these parents. They may have had their own experiences as a child or adolescent where trust was broken with an adult. I have talked to many moms who come from a background of abuse and desperately do not want their children to have similar experiences. They may know of circumstances with friends or even in the news where adults broke trust with children. Just remember to be sensitive with parents. You really don’t know what drives their hovering tendencies. If nothing else, moms have an almost irrational sense of need to protect their own. Letting go and letting kids grow up is really hard. Be patient with them.
2) Encourage Them to Trust God
Fear is at the heart of most helicopter parenting. Fear of what could happen. Fear of the unknown. Fear of everything. I call it the “What If” syndrome, and I will admit that this diagnosis has characterized me far too often. Trust me…I’m married to a man who teaches risk management to ministers. Need I say more? I know at least 100 ways you could be harmed or injured, just at church. Did I mention recently our daughter ended up at an urgent care facility after an event? At church.
Sending your children into the world as they grow up is extremely scary. Instant access to the news alone is enough to want to keep your children inside your house. Forever. Not to mention they may have access to media outlets too. Remind parents of the importance of trusting God with their children. We are not called to give way to fear but to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells within believers (2 Timothy 1:7). The Bible talks a whole lot about fear. Over and over the Lord says throughout scripture, “Do Not Fear.” I think that’s because fear is such a common human experience. We need the reminders often. Parents are no different. They need all the help and encouragement they can get to trust that God is in control of their kids.
3) Help Them Navigate Culture
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our culture is really toxic for children and adolescents, and navigating it as a parent is extremely difficult. I’ve been researching adolescent culture for over 10 years but helping my tween daughter walk through it is an entirely different story. You can help parents out by educating them on how to live firmly rooted in the Word of God in the midst of an ever-changing culture. Parents need to be guideposts for their kids, knowing what’s out there but guiding them on a different path of being transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Staying ahead of your kids with regard to culture is tough. You can come alongside parents and teach them how to navigate its murky waters.
Not being a Helicopter Mom is a daily battle of faith. If you encounter these parents, don’t judge. Just walk alongside them and help them fight the battle too. In whatever circumstances we find ourselves, whether in parenting, jobs, marriage, or daily life, we all could use this reminder,
“The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid…” Psalm 117:6 HCSB