The term “helicopter parents” was coined to describe those parents who “hover,” like helicopters, to make sure their kids succeed.
Now those helicopter parents, as members of the sandwich generation, find themselves caught in the middle, caring for both kids and aging parents. So they have been transformed into helicopter kids.
“Sometimes I sense panic with members of the sandwich generation,” says Heidi L. Garvis, a Certified Care Manager (CCM) and partner in the Virginia-based Caring Considerations. “Caregiving is caregiving, whether for 2 years old or 82 years old,” notes Garvis, but there’s a big difference. When kids try to tell their parents what they should do, they may run into resistance.
Where she sees panic is with the parents who are trying to raise their own children and care for their aging parents while holding down a full-time job at the same time. “If you are a parent and have kids, you have a tendency to treat your parents the same way.”
That means that sometimes the helicopter kids forget that their parents are adults who have gone through life and faced many challenges. Telling the kids to do this or do that may work, but meet resistance from the parents
The helicopter kids caught in the sandwich generation also have to deal with their memories and expectations, especially if cognitive decline is an issue. Mom may have been a fastidious housekeeper, but now she lets things slide or she may always have been fashionably dressed but now settles for sweats much of the time.
Or the “kids” may wonder why Dad is perfectly happy with his current TV when a new big screen HD would be much better.
Being a successful helicopter kid takes patience, along with a willingness to pull back and listen. They also should realize that their parents are not the way they used to be and recognize that though kids want parents to be the way they were, the reality is that they will never be that way again.
What that means is that the helicopter kids have to change their expectations and be more tolerant. Mother used to be a meticulous housekeeper but now things pile up. Maybe she doesn’t have the energy or the desire to do it anymore. Especially with a bit of cognitive decline, she can’t cope with the complexities any more.
Kids don’t want to be accused of neglecting their parents but preserving the quality of past life is always difficult.
Sometimes kids jump to conclusions about what their parents want or expect when sometimes all parents want is to vent and complain but don’t want to or can’t help themselves. At that point, the helicopter kids should just sit back and listen and do their best to deal with the new realities.
And somehow accept the fact that those new realities are not going to change — at least until their own kids grow up and no longer need a helicopter parent.