Are Helicopter Parents Grounded During COVID-19?

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My favorite place to be a helicopter parent — at the beach.

In a Wall Street Journal article this week called Has Covid Brought an End to Helicopter Parenting? by Anne Marie Chaker, how parenting has changed due to Coronavirus is discussed. Not only are parents working from home, but they don’t have school or childcare to help take care of the kids. The result is relaxed parenting standards, like letting kids go out of the house unsupervised on their bikes and allowing more screen time.

Parents are tired. They are cooped up. They are letting go of their helicopter parenting tendencies. It’s called survival for many. In some ways this is a good thing for our kids, although the increased screen time doesn’t sound like a benefit.

Here’s an excerpt:

Kim Lucasti recently made a parenting decision she never would have permitted before the coronavirus pandemic: She let her 14-year-old daughter ride a bike into town without an adult alongside her.

In the past couple of months, Ms. Lucasti, who lives in Longport, N.J., has given more freedom to her teenage daughter and 12-year-old son. It’s partly because the kids are restless without their usual scheduled activities, and also because she needs space to handle her own tasks. “I have never left my kids alone in the house so much,” she says. Gone are the days of helicopter parenting: “I have let the helicopter down,” she jokes.

Doctors see benefits in giving kids greater independence and freedom to make decisions. It would mark a departure from the hypervigilant approach adopted by many parents since the 1990s, which critics said harmed kids’ ability to develop problem-solving skills, navigate conflict on their own, and create an identity separate from their parents.

But with a less hands-on style come other concerns: Unrestricted screen time, which doctors worry can lead to inactivity, sleep disruption and anxiety. And the pandemic has brought myriad other stresses into family life—a lack of routine, schooling and socialization among them—whose long-term consequences remain to be seen.

About half of 2,067 adults said they are allowing their children to go to bed later (46%), wake up later (51%), and are allowing more screen time (49%), according to a May survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the University of Phoenix. A separate poll found that nearly 30% of parents said their child-rearing styles are at least somewhat or much more relaxed than normal, according to a June survey of nearly 900 parents by Pittsburgh-based consumer-research firm CivicScience.

This parenting sounds like more of throw back to how I was raised. We could leave the house after breakfast, return for a sandwich at lunchtime and the only rule was to be back home at dark. When we lived in town, we played in each other’s yards, and dusk often brought a game of “work up” softball with kids of all ages playing in our dead end street.

In second grade, we moved to “the country” and we’d ride our bikes for miles and miles to visit friends, or go on a scenic loop along the river. Or, my brother and I would be armed with machetes chopping our way through berry brambles to forge a trail and build forts in the woods.

My parents didn’t seem to care where we were as long as we were home for dinner. The one thing mom did have control of when I was very young was screen time. Back then screens were a TV with less than a half dozen stations. Mom allowed two half-hour shows on PBS per day.  I remember the weird feeling at 3 p.m. in the middle of a game of touch football or tag, the neighborhood kids would run home to watch “Dark Shadows.” Of course, we were not allowed to watch that show. Oh well. When we were in junior high, our parents gave up on screen time, too.

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Me and my brother when screen time was limited, but we could play outside all day long.

How has your parenting changed with COVID-19?

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