Monday, January 21, 2013

A Flight Plan for Helicopter Parent, An Introduction

Anytime I mention "Helicopter Parent" to a parent of a high school kid, they are quick to deflect any possible affiliation with that label.

My response, I think that a parent who isn't a helicopter parent during the college process hurts their child.

Now let me first delineate between the two types of helicopter parents.

There is the helicopter parent who provides their child low ground cover.

And there is the helicopter parent who provides their child low ground control.

The former parent helps their student manage the stress that comes with the college process.

The latter parent contributes to their student's stress that comes with the college process.

And there will be inevitable stress.

Recently in
The Chronicle of Higher Education, there was an article on how pets experience stress during the college process. The study revealed that their owners don’t pet pets enough during the waiting period, which as a result, heightens the pet's stress level.

So if pets experience stress during this process, you can bet that parents will. And certainly the student.

Too often we forget that this is the first foray for many of these kids into the "adult world". This will be the first time they are critiqued, judged, evaluated, accepted, or rejected. In our hyper therapeutic, self-esteem culture, our kids have grown up being told how amazing they are. It's like the kid who sings in the living room to an audience of family members one day and the next day is standing in line to audition with 20,000 other living-room singers for American Idol.

It's one thing right to sing in front of Aunt Bethany and Uncle Fred and Grandpa Glenny.  It's quite another thing when it's Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson.

Two summers ago I had a chance to sit under the teaching of Dr. JoAnn Deak. Dr. Deak is the leading field researcher at The Ohio State University on adolescent brain development.

In her session on "Understanding the Adolescent Brain," she opened by saying point blank: "You are going against neurobiology. The adolescent brain is not equipped to handle the stresses and strains that 17-18 years old are put under, especially when it comes to the college process."

Dr.Deak explained how the Corpus collosum is under massive construction during the teenage years. Dr. Deaks compared the Corpus collosum to a 10-lane highway, like I-5 in LA. In order for teens to be able to think, organize, judge, and make morally sound, non-destructive decisions, "all lanes" on the Cc have to be open. What often happens though is that stress causes the Amygdala (feeling center) to swell, which then triggers a suppression of the Prefrontal cortex, which then causes the "highway to shut down". What ensues is a series of emotional, academic, and volitional "crashes".

This series of events often happens more in boys than girls. Ever wonder why your 17-year-old boy acts like a 5 year old? Now you know.

So what the new brain research shows is that adolescence is the worst time for organization. Many times kids are trying to juggle 10 balls with one hand and a finger.

This is then why we need to help create a flight plan that prevents our kids from crashing into a mountain.

So with that said, let's look at 6 ways we can help our kids navigate through the turbulence and around the mountains that are sure to come.