Raising Teens that Know When to Ask for Help

Our culture doesn’t value asking for help. People tend to feel ashamed if they can’t do something themselves or embarrassed that they don’t have all the answers. Some have trouble trusting others or worry that others will judge them. There are lots of reasons that people don’t want to ask for help, but it’s actually an important skill we need to truly be successful in life. We all require help sometimes. No one can — or should — handle everything alone.

While many people see asking for help as a negative, there are actually several benefits. Productivity increases when we work together. We learn from each other and gain new perspectives, which also helps the person who is helping you! In addition, allowing others to help you and sharing your struggles can strengthen your relationships. Helping each other is all part of the giving and receiving that creates positive connections with others, which in turn increases our happiness.

As adults, we must be mindful of the messages we are sending youth about whether or not seeking help is acceptable. If we never role model asking for help, we will communicate that it is not acceptable behavior. Instead, try these techniques to teach young people that it’s okay to ask for help:

  • Accept that everybody needs help sometimes, including you! Recognize when you’re not managing well and make sure that YOU ask for help.
  • When talking about people asking for help, reframe it as a strength and not a weakness. Let your teen know that facing our fears about asking for help takes courage.
  • Share stories with your teen about times in your life when you needed help. Be open and honest about situations when you needed extra support and how you went about asking for it.
  • Respond positively when anyone, especially your teen, asks you for help and try to give them your full attention. Try not to minimize their feelings, thoughts, or situation. Show you understand that it’s hard to ask for help and that you care. As adults we have a role to play in ensuring that young people have positive experiences when they reach out for support, so that when the big stuff happens they’ll feel safe and secure in asking for help.

Final Thoughts…

Anyone who made it big in life didn’t do it alone. Olympic athletes, corporate leaders, activists, and world leaders all had a team of people helping them. When we recognize that none of us can go it alone, we develop character qualities like empathy and generosity, and surround ourselves with supportive people.

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