Jumping off the helicopter

Jumping out of the helicopter - Funnermother

Jumping out of the helicopter – Funnermother

I have been a proud helicopter parent, enduring: years of intertility, then 3 months in neonatal intensive care, 2 brain bleeds, and a first child a little over 1 lb.  It just takes one doctor saying “your vigilance has paid off” to continue running interference through walking, talking, and school.

Then one angel child.  And finally Thing 2.  Now ten years have passed since Thing 1 was born.  It is time to back off and let Thing 1 build his own armor.  And start early with Thing 2. My first step was to LEARN some coping skills to teach them!  Here are my top three for toddlers and early elementary school kids.

Jumping off the helicopter - Funnermother

Jumping off the helicopter – Funnermother

Three Plan-Ahead Coping Tricks:

1. Rock in the pocket to remind them of the long evolution of the planet, of the rock solid love of the family.  Kiss it and that is their pocket kiss. Long noisy kisses are good for a laugh.  And tell them you’ll always come back for that rock!  🙂

2. Months turned into years of wearing scarves to work, primarily so that my children could take them off me when I said goodbye at daycare and keep them, sleep with them, or stash them in their cubbies.  My business card and driver’s license also worked if I forgot the scarf. Taking my headrag scarf made it extra fun and funny!

3. Read books about it: first day of school, moving, getting a pet, going to the dentist.  Describing what you think is coming helps a great deal: the trip, a funeral, the hospital.  Talk about what it will look, sound, feel like. Sometimes my social stories move to the ridiculous in search of a laugh: we move near Nanny and she sneaks into our house one day and uses all the legos to make a swimming pool!  No, not really — but we will have Sunday dinner with her.

What works for your family when first-time jitters pop up?  Please leave a comment and we will grow the list together.


12 thoughts on “Jumping off the helicopter

  1. When I was involved with raising my niece and nephew, we would take every opportunity life allowed for some coping and critical thinking skill development with the question: “How did that choice work out for you?” If niece looked at her phone while spinning her baton and smacked herself in the head, while dressing the wound, we would ponder the question and follow with another…”What will you do differently next time?” Same thing for when nephew would touch a hot plate the minute our back was turned after being told to stay away from it…the opportunities were endless…and then, they started to be less frequent. Progress? Hope so.


  2. Angela, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, your blog posts! I wish you lived closer to me, I think we would be good friends 🙂 As a parent, I think our first, knee-jerk instinct is to protect our kids in any way possible. Protect them physically, but also their hearts. But truly the best way we can “protect” them is to help them learn to be resilient, strong people! I find that my son also wants to know what to expect, what will it look like. When my grandmother was dying (at 102!) Kyle and I went to visit her. I was hesitant to take him, but I knew he wanted to say goodbye to Great Nana Dorothy. I explained to him what the scene would look like and what he might expect. I told him that if he got scared we could leave. He was AMAZING! He really got it and the smile on both of their faces when they saw each other was incredible. I wouldn’t have taken that away from him (or her) for anything. I guess what I’m trying is to say is that it seems like the best way to raise kids who are able to handle what life has to offer is to let them live and experience life, all the while knowing that we have their backs! 🙂


    • Jennifer, thanks for your lovely words! And thank you for your story. The times that we experienced loss were several years ago, and I was still an active helicopter parent, trying to keep my kids away from any pain. I love your story, how you allowed Kyle to have closure, and what a gift to both your son and your grandmother — and choosing the hard road in a situation where you had a choice (not like Kyle had to go to the hospital or something where you had no choice). I would do it differently now, and your explanation of the scene and what to expect will be in my toolbox. I’m sure we’ll have the chance again one day. And “Knowing that we have their backs” is a good phrase — we don’t have to always show or prove it, especially as they reach the tween and teen years; and we have their backs, we don’t have to run in front of them. Thanks so much, Jennifer, and I hope one day we’ll have coffee! xx Angela


      • I have only raised and lived with other people’s children (not having had any of my own) which makes it so much easier not to helicopter. Distance has made it easy for me focus on resiliency and self management. Their discomfort isn’t an issue for me 🙂 I want to acknowledge you, Jennifer, for making that memory possible for both your son and grandmother. Entrances and exists are sacred; what a gift for you all!


  3. The scarf story….I almost cried. That has long since been a thing in our family. With my husband away almost all winter, my two boys missed him dearly. I would video tape him reading stories and play those during times they needed to here his voice and see his face (long before affordable technology arrived). And as I was the rock and always home with them all those years, they have a hard time now that I travel more for work. They sleep with my pyjamas and carry my picture in their back packs. Thanks for reminding me I did a good job, and it is the little things that matter.


    • Oh Aly. What a struggle. I always imagined that professional athletes — and certainly Olympians — had their families tagging along. You did a great job! They know what’ll work for them, where to find your pjs no doubt, and they’ll be the strongest kids in town. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story here. I cannot imagine being a single parent, even temporarily. Kudos. xx Angela


  4. I love the scarf idea. How sweet is that!! Very beautiful article and such great tips. This would be a great post for pre-school and young age teachers to share with their parents.


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