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Helicopter Parenting & the Gentle Art of Letting Go

Updated: Mar 14

By: Leanne H.

This morning, there was a two-hour school delay and I couldn’t go out to the bus stop with my daughter because I had meetings. I knew she could do it on her own (the bus stop is within sight of our house and she is eleven) but we’d just never done it that way. Mornings are traditionally family time at our house. It’s a chance to spend some time together and we get up (what feels like) crushingly early for it, so we have plenty of time to spare. 

Weirdly, I was worried about the bus stop. I knew she’d be fine. She knows the other kids at the stop and she’s fairly social. She is careful about traffic and looks both ways religiously. And here’s the kicker - she walks home from that same stop every day without incident. 

I think it’s just that it’s sometimes hard to let go, even when you know your kids will be okay. Even when you know it could be to their benefit! I remember waiting for the bus as a kid, running through the leaves with all the other kids at the stop, playing tag, and having a terrific, unsupervised time. If you think back to when you were a kid and you were playing solo with your friends, without teachers or parents or coaches in the room, it sometimes got messy but was generally pretty great. 

I remember, when I was eleven, we took a class trip and broke up into groups of kids, and then they let us loose in an amusement park and told us to come back to the gates after lunch so we could bus home together. If I tried to sell a room full of parents of elementary schoolers on that idea today, I just don’t know how that would go. 

To be fair, a lot of kids are a little younger these days. There have been studies showing that adolescence is extending into the 20s. Then there’s the Pandemic, when we all cupped our hands a little tighter around the spark that was our family to keep it safe. 

I don’t think we need to make drastic changes. There are a lot of uncertainties out there, and I’d never advocate for a parent to push themselves past what feels right for their children. But, I would suggest pausing when you feel the kneejerk reaction to hold so tightly. Think about the positives, not just the worries. Remember what it was like for you as a child, in a more or less permissive environment, and how either of those situations felt. Consider your child’s age and the skills and preparation that you want for them when they move out into the world and are free to make more of their own choices.

Maybe visualize a net. It can be a trap, keeping them close but immobile, or it can be a safety net, offering support while they walk the high-wire and you cheer them on. It is hard as heck to set aside my worries sometimes. But it’s not about us, or where we’re at. It’s about them, and where they’re going. 

So, how did our bus adventure work out? She was absolutely fine. She made it to the stop with no problem and spent the time chatting with a neighborhood friend, which was a nice surprise. She was okay. I was okay. And next time, it’ll be that much easier for her to venture out - and a tiny bit easier to let her do so. 


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