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Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Helicopter Parents - May 21, 2006

Helicopter Parents

May 21, 2006

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, CBS 11 News

As graduations are happening across America this weekend, millions of baby boomer parents are saying goodbye to their children. However, as just under 80,000,000 Americans are now facing the impending empty nest, psychologists are reporting that letting go might be much more difficult for this generation of parents than ever before. Here to explain these findings is psychologist, Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: What are we seeing in baby boomer parents as their kids graduate and move on?

Dr. Sylvia: We are finding less "moving on" and more parental involvement than ever before. Psychologists have labeled this trend "helicopter parents." Hovering in the background, swooping in to rescue, encourage and motivate, boomer parents are notorious for micro managing their kids. Independence is no longer an automatic event when a child hits the college campus or even their first job. This generation of parents is having trouble letting go. Interestingly, their children also expect high levels of parental involvement.

Q: How is this generation of parents different?

Dr. Sylvia: The boomer generation is the wealthiest and best educated generation in human history and they have used their considerable resources to amply support their young. Boomers kept their family size small and their incomes high. With the invention of two income parents, families have enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. The children have reaped the benefits.

Q: Why has there been such am emphasis on parenting in this generation?

Dr. Sylvia: Many boomers were reared by parents who centered the family around themselves. The World War II generation brooked little nonsense from their kids and it became fashionable for adolescents in the 1960's and 70s to rebel against their parents. Teens were convinced that they had to rebel against their parents to achieve a sense of themselves. The strong alliance we see between parents and kids today simply did not exist in previous generations. In fact, it would have been actively discouraged.

Q: How has this parenting style affected the kids?

Dr. Sylvia: This generation of twentysomethings have become acclimated to every advantage and has become, without exception, the most aggressive, confident and competitive generation America has ever seen. This generation did not work odd jobs. Instead, they spent their summers resume building.With every advantage bestowed and every door opened, these kids are used to unprecedented competitive standards. They are extremely hard working and demand a lot from themselves.

Q: What are the downsides of this parenting trend for kids?

Dr. Sylvia: Children today seem to suffer from unprecedented levels of anxiety. Because their parents have been so involved, they have often not developed the requisite emotional skills to regulate themselves by the time they leave home. As a result, they are struggling with remaining calm and poised under stress--skills they should have mastered at a younger age. There has been far too much importance placed on performance rather than helping kids build a solid sense of who they are.

Q: What are some tips for parents who are trying to let go?

Dr. Sylvia: Here are several strategies:

Strength through Experience: Boomer parents love to think that wisdom can be "downloaded" like a micro chip. They often try to teach through direct instruction rather than letting their child learn through experience. There are just some lessons that can only be taught in life by directly experiencing them.

Stop Offering All the Answers: If you hover too much, you will send the wrong message. People build self confidence by confronting challenges. If they make a bad decision, back off and let them deal with it. Stop offering all the answers.

Calm Your Own Anxiety: Since private colleges cost over $40,000 a year, many boomer parents like to stay centrally involved to make sure their investment pays off. Do not react to every crisis your child has. The road between 18 and 22 is never smooth. Be there to support, but do not overreact.

Set Appropriate Limits: Being centrally involved in your child's life as a mentor, coach and chief cheerleader can compromise your ability to set tough limits when you need to. A lack of limits can literally erode your child's respect for you and make him more anxious. Saying "no" teaches responsibility, predictability and self reliance.

Changing Roles: As one psychologist noted, you have to go from manager to consultant and from onsite supervisor to mentor. Boomer parents need to look ahead to new roles and adventures for themselves. They need to transform from super parents to just being people. Doing so can provide some of the best years of their lives and set an example for this new generation of children.