TEACH YOUR CHILDREN
TO ASK FOR HELP
As your babies grew, think about the kinds of help you offered. You braced them as they learned to sit up, held their hands as they began to walk, taught them to get up after every fall. You’ve worked on their math skills with them, overseen their progress with handwriting, directed them toward proper table manners, and coached them in good sportsmanship.
As your “baby” becomes a teen, there are still plenty of lessons they need to learn. Among them is how and when to ask for help.
Learning how and when to ask for help isn’t a skill everyone learns from their parents. Depending on your age and background, you may have been raised to think that asking for help is a sign of weakness. In fact, knowing your limitations while facing the realities of some of life’s toughest challenges is actually a sign of strength and emotional maturity.
ASK FOR PROFESSIONAL HELP
When it comes to the challenge of talking to your teen about weight issues, asking for professional help may be your best course of action. Why? Most parents can offer their kids a clear moral argument against drugs, alcohol and sex. But childhood weight issues are often a result of layers of emotions, social experiences, self esteem, and the examples you set at home (which may be hard to recognize or confront).
If you see your child struggling with their weight and self esteem, and you’ve already talked frankly with them about the health issues of being over- or under-weight in their formative years, it’s time to seek professional help. Start by talking to your doctor about nutritional counseling and behavioral therapies, getting referrals to experts who are qualified to help get your teen – and maybe the entire family – back on a healthier track.
TALK TO YOUR TEEN
Next, talk to your teenager about the importance of seeking help and being ready to receive it.
- Lightly discuss all the ways you’ve helped them in the past (yes, it’s OK to go as far back as their toddler years)
- Assure them you are talking to them out of love and concern
- Recognize all the experts outside of the family who have provided assistance
- Ask your child what or who they think would help them attain a healthier weight
- Talk about the benefits of being strong enough and mature enough to ask for help
- Reassure your teen that you’re on their side. Take responsibility with them, and be willing to support them throughout the journey.
Walk the walk by examining and modifying your own behavior. And if you need it, ask for help for yourself too. Everyone deserves to receive the help they seek.
SHOW YOUR MATURITY
BY ASKING FOR HELP
When that calculus problem proves to be too hard to solve, what do you do? You ask your teacher for help. When you’re nervous about making that first dissection cut in biology class, where do you turn? To your teacher who helps you manage your fear and your scalpel. With those simple acts, you show you’re committed to doing well in school. Not only that, you’re giving your teachers the opportunity to help you – and that helps them feel good about their job.
Asking for help demonstrates that you’re mature. Yes, it’s hard to make that first move, to speak up, to get out of your comfort zone, to realize you need help in the first place. It takes maturity and confidence to be the kind of person who knows how and when to ask for help.
So what if you’re not that confident? If you’re too shy to ask, or if you don’t think you even deserve help? Or when you think asking for help might get you in trouble or have some sort of dire consequences?
If you’re facing those inner obstacles, but still have a big problem to solve, whip out these five steps and walk through them.
1. Think about your situation. Why do you feel sad or helpless, and what is it specifically that’s making you feel this way?
2. Think about who can possibly help. When you begin to see all the options – from teachers to family members – you may not feel so alone.
3. Think about the benefits or drawbacks of asking for help. The positives will probably outweigh the negatives, meaning it’s time to take action.
4. Think about how to ask. Do some role-playing and pretend you’re the one hearing your request. If you were on the receiving end of the conversation, how might you reply and react?
5. Take action. Talking about a problem really does help, so even if you don’t get a clear-cut solution from the person you’re talking to, the discussion alone may help lead you to the real help you need.
WHEN TO ASK
So what are some of the problems you might need help with – beyond calculus and biology? If you’re binge eating, or going on super-strict diets, or have tons of negative feelings about how you look, ask for help. If you’re sad all the time, feel alone, and seeing your schoolwork suffer because of it, ask for help. If you are always fighting with friends, family members and authority figures, ask for help. If you’re doing drugs or drinking alcohol, ask for help. If you’re having trouble dealing with stress or family changes, ask for help.
WHO TO ASK
It can be hard to take the first step and ask a parent for help. But that could be the best first step you take. Remember, your parents have been helping you develop since you were born – and helping you get the help you need now is just a continuation of that care. If you feel more comfortable taking your request outside your family, talk to a school counselor, teacher or your family doctor about getting professional help. Remember steps 2 and 4 above? That should help keep you on track.
Facing your problems and taking action is a sure sign that you’re growing into a wiser, healthier person. After all, isn’t that the kind of person you want to be?