Don’t Let Your Custody Battle Turn You Into a Helicopter Parent

Mom with her son looking at camera

Custody disputes can bring out the worst parenting behaviors. Helicopter-parenting deprives the child(ren) of coping abilities, leading children to live more apprehensive, entitled, and ineffective lives. There are many manifestations of helicopter parenting. Awareness helps children of divorce have healthier development and relationships with their parents.

What Is Helicopter Parenting?

Helicopter parenting can be defined by three types of behaviors parents manifest:

Information Seeking Behaviors

Obsessively knowing the child's daily schedule and where he or she is at all times, overseeing personal decisions, and staying consistently knowledgeable about grades and other accomplishments.

Direct Intervention

Jumping into the child’s contentions with roommates, friends, romantic partners, teachers, coaches, and bosses.

Autonomy Limiting

Preventing a child from making his or her own mistakes, controlling his or her life, and failing to support his or her decisions.

How Custody Disputes Encourage Helicopter Parenting

The court may use demonstrations of parental involvement (managing appointments, education, and activities) to determine custody allocation and child support. Loss of control and the emotional or psychological effects of divorce can lead a parent to practice controlling behaviors. Parents experiencing self-crises may live vicariously through the child or even use the child to negatively impact their ex.

Effects of Helicopter Parenting on Child Development

Correlations exist between helicopter parenting and mental health issues as a child becomes more independent. This can lead to maladaptive perfectionism, a tendency in children of helicopter parents to be afraid of making mistakes and blame themselves for a lack of perfection. Children need the freedom to learn about the world, discover their purpose, and explore what makes them happy. When deprived of such, the child will struggle with self-governing and living a balanced life.

Breaking Helicopter Habits

A parent can break helicopter habits by doing the following:

  • Supporting growth and independence by listening and not pushing (the parents') desires on the child.
  • Teaching the child how to accomplish tasks on his or her own, rather than taking over.
  • Avoiding allowing a child to escape consequences unless unfair or life-altering.
  • Encouraging independent problem solving by asking for creative solutions.
  • Teaching them to speak up for themselves respectfully.
  • Understanding and accepting their weaknesses and strengths, and letting the child achieve his or her own goals.

Courts recognize that parents don’t always see eye-to-eye when they’re going through a divorce. More frequently, states are moving towards the 50/50 model. The engagement of both parents is considered most beneficial to a child’s development.