Photo: Elizabeth Fullerton
Teenagers need to be able to confidently ask for help at school, during tertiary studies, at work and right through life. An inability to seek help when it is needed can result in much unhappiness, greater stress and even mental health issues. One of the main reasons so many students drop out of tertiary studies is their reluctance to ask for help.
Many teenagers see asking for help as somehow failing. Wanting to keep up appearances is very high on many teenagers’ Wish List. Asking for help is seen as being immature. Parents must show teenagers that asking for help takes courage and maturity. Here are some tips to help teenagers believe this and not be afraid to ask for support when it is needed.
Normalise asking for help…
Talk about asking for help when occasions arise in your family life or even on TV programs you watch as a family.
- ‘If only George had asked us, we could have driven him to the soccer game. Tell him that he must always ask us if he needs a ride.’
- ‘If Anna had asked someone to drive her home, she wouldn’t have lost her licence because she was over the drink driving limit. If only she had asked!’
Speak into this at home…
Give the clear message that it’s normal and smart to ask for help.
“If you ever need help at school/university, don’t hesitate to ask. There are people there specifically to help students with everything…”
“Ask your teacher for some suggestions and feedback. Email her. Teachers love students who ask for help. “
Use personal experience and examples…
Although young people sometimes appear not to care about advice from parents and other adults, they do listen and they do take notice.
- “I remember approaching a colleague for advice when I first started working at X and she gave me advice that saved my sanity!”
- “When I was in the final year at school I was terrified of exams. I asked my favourite teacher and he gave me fantastic advice about how to revise and do my best. Teachers are there to help students.”
- “Today I approached my team at work and was honest about not being able to meet our deadlines. I said that it wasn’t going to happen unless someone helped me with the workload. The funny thing is that several other people were feeling just like me. I should have said something earlier and saved myself a lot of worry.”
- “Tony, I am completely swamped with work this week. I need your help. Could you please pick up…”?
Know where your teen can access help if it’s needed…
Whether your teen is at high school, university or working, make sure he knows who to approach if he needs help of any kind.
Who is the best person to approach at school? A trusted teacher? Welfare staff?
Does your teen know where to get help at university or TAFE? Check the websites and look for words like ‘Student Services’. Look at the blog article ‘Support services universities offer to help students transition smoothly’)
Openly praise examples of people asking for help…
TV commercials frequently advertise services and help for Mental Health. When the opportunity arises, occasionally make a casual comment on these. “If only people feeling depressed or stressed would speak to someone before things become overwhelming. It takes courage to contact someone. It takes maturity to reach out and ask for help.” Using words like ‘courage’ and ‘maturity’ makes asking for help less daunting for young people.
If we can normalise asking for help, we can help teenagers enormously. We can prevent worries and fears becoming so huge that they compromise a young person’s ability to enjoy life.