HOUSTON – Generation X’ers are the generation of the “latchkey kids.” The term latchkey kid is a child who returns from school to an empty home because their parent(s) are away at work or because they are living in a single parent home. Latchkey kids surged from the 1970’s to the early 1990’s as a result of economic changes, where two incomes were required to get by, and societal changes, where the divorce rate increased and created more single parent homes. “Now the generation of latchkey kids are parents themselves. Many generation X’ers over-compensate for their latchkey upbringing by being a helicopter parent,” said Janice Emery, Regional Youth Development Specialist with the University of Missouri Extension. A helicopter parent is a parent who pays extremely close attention to their child’s experiences and problems. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead. “As parents, it is important to find the middle ground between these parenting styles and balance protecting children, and making sure they grow into responsible adults. Parents have to keep in mind that parenting success is not measured by how much a parent does for their child, but rather how much they teach them to do on their own,” Emery says. It is not always easy, but raising kids that can handle the tough stuff that life hands them as adults will make them, and society at large, better off. A few tips for parents trying to strike the right balance between latchkey parenting and helicopter parenting is to accept that your child may not be the person you had planned, and that is ok. “Whether less academically successful than you thought, or maybe not the athlete you expected, children need to know they are loved for who they are and not that they are only loved when they meet the specific expectations parents set for them,” said Emery. Another tip is to slow down and take a deep breath. With the expectations and busy schedules of parents, finding time to enjoy being a parent is not always easy. “No one looks back on their life and says they regret spending too much time with their family. In the age of instant access and technology, kids still need parents to listen to them and spend quality-parenting time with them each day without their devices or other distractions,” says Emery. In slowing down, you will appreciate the simple moments you have with your children. Some refer to these moments as “inch-stones” rather than milestones, because so often parents are caught up in how children are currently progressing that they do not take time to look back and be grateful for what they have already learned to do. 4-H offers parents and children opportunities to bond, share interests, and learn new skills. 4-H’ers are also more likely to grow up to be civilly responsible adults. For more information on joining 4-H, contact Regional Youth Development Specialist, Janice Emery, with the University of Missouri Extension at 417-967-4545; or contact the Douglas County University of Missouri Extension at 683-4409.