Jennifer Garner, Reformed Helicopter Parent?
With baby #3, actress Jennifer Garner tries a relaxed approach to parenting
If the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem, then actress and mom of three Jennifer Garner did just that in a recent interview. Her problem? Jen owns up to hovering and being a little too intense when it comes to parenting her kids.
In other words, yup, she’s a helicopter mom.
“I’ve been there. I helicopter,” Garner, 40, tells CNN.
With six-year-old Violet, and three-year-old Seraphina, her two oldest children with husband Ben Affleck, the celeb mom says she really did “walk around with five different kinds of diaper cream, and seven changes of clothes.” But Garner is trying take a more relaxed approach with
five-month-old son Samuel. “I toss a diaper in a purse and I’m good to go. I can figure the rest out as I go along. You just realize that none of it is that important. If the clothes are a little bit dirty, the kids are going to be all right.”
Helicoptering for very young children may take the form, as it did for Garner, of never-ever letting a wet diaper go for more than a minute or allowing clothes to get the least bit soiled. As children get older, however, helicoptering can mean not allowing kids to play on certain pieces of playground equipment out of fear they will get hurt or dirty, intervening in relationships with playmates, never letting a child out of sight, and having more than normal contact with caregivers and teachers. With kids raised in this kind of environment, is it any wonder that colleges now have orientation seminars for helicopter parents on how to let go?
Family therapists and child psychiatrists are applauding Jen’s bold move to stop the ‘copter mid-course. “Hovering and helicoptering are bad for children because it teaches them that you don’t believe in their abilities. It robs them of the ability to develop real self-esteem; the ability to successfully overcome challenges or difficulties,” Lesli Doares, MS, LMFT, tells BabyZone.
Children also pick up on the emotional undercurrents of their parents, Doares finds. “They have to tune in to your feelings to survive. If a parent is constantly anxious, this gets translated to the child that he or she is not safe. Encouraging a child to do developmentally appropriate tasks/behaviors instills confidence and mastery.”
Scott Carroll, MD, a child & adolescent psychiatrist from Albuquerque, New Mexico, agrees. “The key thing is to remember is freedom to explore the world is good for children. It’s good to let them get dirty. Letting them walk instead of riding in a stroller all the time helps prevent children from getting overweight. Letting young children play “peek-a-boo” with a stranger—while you watch close by—helps them feel comfortable meeting new people. Trust your own ingenuity to solve problems and deal with situations as they arise.” Also, he adds, “cutting down on the stuff in the diaper bag is good for your back and neck.”
As to why Jen thinks she got caught in the whirr of helicoptering, the star is circumspect. “It’s hard,” she admits. “That’s just the time we’re all in now. We’re all so focused on our kids and I’m sure it’s too much. I think back and I realize my parents gave me a lot of space to become who I was and to be quirky and they didn’t really worry about it too much.”
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