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Parents, It's OK to Ask for Help

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When my kids were babies, I used to dread the baby groups where there was always a mom who would brag about how her child slept through the night or was potty trained over a weekend. All this while I was struggling with a child who woke every two hours for his first three years.

In a world where too many people project Instagram-perfect lives, it can be hard to show the messy side of parenting. There’s enough judgment already from family and friends without pulling back the curtain and letting people see the struggles, challenges, and downright hot mess days.

But here’s the thing about parenting – none of us really knows what we’re doing. It’s OK to admit we need help.

Team Approach

I recently was reminded that strengthening your parenting skills begins with asking for help.

You see, I’m raising a teenager. Anyone who’s been there, done that is likely shaking their head, expressing sympathy.

In addition to the hormones, my child also has some disabilities. These needs throw an added twist into parenting, as I’m not sure which behaviors are caused by adolescence and which are the result of ADHD.

After a few challenging days, I decided to reach out for help and booked an appointment with a parenting counselor. Honestly, this was the best hour of my week. It was so liberating talking openly with someone who wasn’t there to judge, but rather offer a fresh perspective and valuable insight.

One of the nuggets from our time together was the importance of building a team to support my child. We spent time looking at all the adults who play a positive role in their life – teachers, coaches, mentors, and more. The counselor reminded me that my husband and I don’t need to go this alone. Rather, we need to purposefully surround our child with trusted adults and peers who can help them navigate adolescence.

In short – I didn’t need to have all the answers.

I know this sounds simple, and maybe obvious for those of you with grown children, but when you’re in the thick of the rollercoaster years, it can be murky. Add the stress of scrolling through Facebook seeing the amazing things your friends’ kids are doing on a day when you’re struggling, and it gets murkier.

Honesty First

Here’s what I wish. I wish parents and caregivers felt empowered to share the messy days, along with the award-winning days. I wish we would normalize the parenting struggles that we’re all encountering.

So how do we do this? By being honest with ourselves.

For me, it’s stopping myself from saying I’m fine when someone asks how I’m doing on the rough days. It’s also about leaning into uncomfortable conversations with friends who you know are having challenges, thinking if they want to talk about it, they will (while being secretly relieved, knowing they likely won’t start the conversation).

By bringing our challenges, fears, and struggles into the light, we’ll find we aren’t alone. There are others who have stumbled along this road, or are currently riding the rollercoaster. By admitting our weaknesses, we’re able to find new approaches, or at least unload.

My hour with the counselor helped me find my footing and reminded me that asking for help as a parent is a sign of strength, not weakness. I’ve scheduled monthly sessions and am working to build my own team of supports.

At the end of the day, there’s no easy detour around the bumpy parts of parenting. But by understanding my blind spots, and getting help navigating the road, I won’t be alone on my journey.

I may never have the Instagram-perfect life, but by reaching out and asking for help, I’m able to reduce stress for me and my family.

Getty image by Fizkes.

Originally published: January 15, 2022
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