Teach Your Kids to Ask for Help – A Mother’s Success Story

Triumph Out Of Tragedy

This is the story of how a school shooting actually helped a mom realize that she had had a huge success – she had effectively taught her son to ask for help. You'll love this one.

Tammy is an active member of our community, at different times over the years supported by training programs, group coaching and private coaching. As a parent, she has put in a great deal of effort – and she has begun to see the benefit of her hard work with all of her kids, in different ways.

For Diane and me, it has been a privilege to witness Tammy's growth as a parent and to celebrate with her the progress her sons have made. She has gradually overcome her "shoulds" and learned to support and guide her children effectively, setting clear boundaries and holding her sons accountable with compassion and respect. Tammy is now quite adept at implementing the coach-approach, and it supports her as she raises several particularly complex children.

Tammy's most complicated child is Danny, now a 17-year-old young man whose many challenges in life and learning have been quite pronounced since he was adopted as an infant. With a mixture of sadness and celebration, Tammy recently recounted this heart-warming story from a few years ago. I asked her if I could share it with all of you – because I believe it offers hope and clear guidance. And heaven knows we could all use that!

Celebration in the Midst of Sadness

Sadly, you've all had to figure out how to talk with your kids about school shootings and other horrific events at some point or another. As parents, difficult conversations are not easy; for many of us, we've used every creative idea imaginable to calm our children's concerns.

After Tammy's 14-year-old son found out about a recent shooting, he didn't say anything to his mom at first. The following day, after taking some time to process it, he had this conversation with his mother:

Son:              Mom, did you hear about the school shooting?

Tammy:         Yes.

Son:              Mom, did they catch the guy who did it?

Tammy:         Son, it was a student.

Son:              Oh. Mom, it is really sad that no one paid too much attention to him and tried to help him.

As the conversation continued, Tammy and her son thoughtfully discussed the details of yet another horrible incident. They agreed that it was terribly sad. She asked her son what he thought that boy must have been feeling.

Son:                 I bet he was lonely, sad and angry. Too bad he didn't know how to ask for help.

Tammy:            (after picking herself up off the floor): Son, isn't it right that you learned to ask for help?

Son:                 Yes.

Tammy:            If you learned to ask for help, what does that mean?

Son:                 Oh, you taught me how to ask for help mom.

Mom:                You know, son, that in some families, kids are told to never ask for help.

Son:                 Mom, I love you!

Some Kids Just Don't Know How

According to Tammy, she told her son that some kids are told to never ask for help because she wanted to give him permission, somewhere along his journey, to let a friend know that it was okay to ask for help. With that information, she expects that he could be (majorly) helping a friend; he might even accompany his friend in seeking help – and she thought that would help him feel good about sharing a little bit about the times he has had to ask for help.

The Importance and Difficulty of Asking for Help

At Impact Parents, we preach the importance of asking for help – for parents and for kids. Everything we do, really, is designed to encourage parents to ask for the help you need; and ultimately, to empower your kids to learn how to ask for and accept help  -- from you and from others.

So what makes it so important to ask for help – and so difficult?

It's important because … no one does anything alone. Everyone needs help, even though most people don't like to admit it. Besides, if we really want our kids to accept the help we offer them, the best way to do that is to model that behavior.

It's difficult because … as parents, we get caught up in the belief that we 'should' do things on our own, that we 'should' know how to help our kids manage their complex issues, or that they'll eventually grow out of it. We convince ourselves that things will get better if we just try harder, or if we read one more book, or if we hire a tutor, or….the list goes on. Whatever the reasons, we avoid seeking the help we need – that is, help for us, not just for our kids.

It's not that much different for our kids. They struggle with a wide range of issues that make it difficult for them to manage their lives, but they don't WANT to need help – from us, or anyone. They feel they 'should' be able to do what their peers can do, and they just want to feel like everyone else. So they avoid admitting that they're struggling, and they resist the help that is offered to them.

Trust is at the Core of Asking for Help

The most successful people in the world learn to recognize and overcome obstacles by asking for help and support, which is why "Asking for Help" is essential to teach kids with complex issues. The value of asking for help -- while a difficult skill to transfer -- will profoundly support kids, now and throughout their lives.

At the core of asking for help is trust – trust that it's okay to need help, trust that people will meet our request with openness and acceptance rather than judgment or shame, trust that we can indeed overcome the obstacles in our path. If you think about it, it requires a certain kind of vulnerability to ask for help – and that can be really scary.

As parents, there are so many complicated issues that we're navigating that it can be really difficult to figure out where to start. But nothing is more important that being inactive, connected relationship with our kids, and letting them know that it's okay to be human. That connection is grounded in trust, and trust is the key to giving themselves permission to ask for help.

When our kids trust us, and other adults in their world, they learn to rely on those relationships to seek help when they need it. Ultimately, that is what will motivate your kids to seek your guidance in year's to come. That ability to ask for help will set them up for a lifetime of success.

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