Why Asking for Help is Hard & How to Get Better At it
We live in a culture that values self-reliance, arguably, to a fault. Yes, it can be tough to admit when we need help, but humans were never meant to be solitary creatures. We were meant to exist in a community with each other. Perhaps more than anything else, raising children, especially children with medical complexities, requires support.
The initial asking is difficult for many reasons — it may induce shame or feel like you’re surrendering control in a world where so few things are controllable. There’s also a chance that you simply want things done the “right way,” especially in regard to your child’s wellbeing. I understand — really, I do. This is something I struggle mightily with in my daily life, but it’s worth exploring how we can all get better at asking for help. Just remember, asking is only ever a sign of courage, not weakness.
5 Ways to Get Better at Asking for Help
I think people sometimes forget that our minds are complex enough to hold two opposing ideas at once. It’s entirely possible to both know you are self-reliant and also acknowledge that help in certain areas will only reduce stress, allowing you to continue on more successfully as a parent or caregiver. So, before getting into the following tips, just practice holding those two mindsets at once — you are independent, and asking for help makes you stronger.
Here are five ways to get better at asking for help as a parent of a medically complex kid:
- Assemble a team in your head, enlisting those closest to you. We all need our own Avengers sometimes, so start by writing down those people (including physicians, nurses, and caregivers) and what their strengths are. These are people who have probably asked before whether they can help you in some way.
- Make a weekly evaluation. Where will your personal efforts make the most impact? Where do your strengths lie? What is your schedule like? From there you can consider reaching out to your trusted Avengers to fill in the gaps.
- Clarify upfront. If someone who volunteers to help doesn’t care to hear the details, they may be more suited to the B-team. Asking for help doesn’t need to be the complete and total surrender you think it does. Write down the important details for any given task, and keep copies! Just be careful; once you hand off an item on your to-do list with all the necessary details, practice surrendering.
- Practice in small ways. Asking for help is a skill, and a tough one at that. You’re not going to become a master delegator overnight. Start with “bite-sized,” low-stakes tasks. For instance, maybe you can ask your mother-in-law to pick up formula or medication on her way home from work. Heck, start as simple as asking your partner to make a pot of coffee in the morning. The more comfortable you become with the process, the better you’ll be at handing off important responsibilities when necessary.
- Quiet your inner critic and listen for that quieter, truer voice inside your head. We may cringe away from vulnerability, but there’s a wiser part of you that knows embracing vulnerability is a superpower. Like Brené Brown says, vulnerability is the birthplace of every positive emotion we have in our lives.
Go easy on yourself. Asking for help is hard, especially for mothers and parents of children with complex medical issues. Take things one day at a time, and when in doubt, check in with the quiet voice in your head, the one that says you deserve support.