I had a parenting breakthrough that my daughter gave permission to share. And it’s so simple. You won’t believe it! (She actually said, “Mom, I feel better. You should blog about this for other kids.”)
Here’s the issue: When she’s at school and overwhelmed because she doesn’t know what to do in a situation (lost, confused, in conflict, upset about something), she internalizes everything and her mind spins with fear because she can’t figure out what she’s supposed to do. We’ve tried so many strategies for managing anxiety, but then it occurs to me that we’re making this much too hard and therapeutic. So I ask my daughter the question that lifts her from the vortex of despair:
“Have you tried asking for help? You know it’s OK to ask for help, right?”
It’s so simple. But she had forgotten. I see her eyes light up. I see her shoulders relax. Maybe she thought that middle school children aren’t supposed to need help. She does report that the teachers often don’t have time for her particular concerns, so how should she ask for help better and more specifically?
What a great question for us all: How can we ask for help better and more specifically?
I tell my daughter to stop and figure out what she really needs and ask for it, and I tell her it’s OK to insist on getting the help she needs without being rude.
Find out what you need. Ask for help. Insist on it if you must.
“Try saying this,” I say.
“I don’t know what to do about________, and I need help in these ways_________. If you cannot help me, would you please bring me to someone who can?”
There’s so much to manage in middle school, and the teachers aren’t always nurturing, warm, or able to anticipate what they need (we aren’t in elementary school anymore, clearly), so the students often sit there, stewing in their thoughts as fear and anxiety rise.
But wait! Stop! Look around! Go ask someone for help!
We practice asking for help with our chins tilted upward and our shoulders squared. We feel confident and bold. We feel ready for situations where we are beyond ourselves and simply cannot figure a way out. We learn that insisting isn’t always negative or rude; it’s a way of taking care of ourselves in a situation to find the help we truly need.