When I was growing up my mom always had appointments with a psychologist “just to talk things out” she always told me. I figured it was because our family was pretty messed up and needed all the help we can get – but I was embarrassed. The psychologist was definitely more adult geared and so I was always rather uncomfortable accompanying my mom because it felt weird to me as a kid to need to go to someone help.
Walking into an office full of adults with old furniture and stiff chairs – it just wasn’t very kid friendly. I’m very independent and didn’t like to rely on anyone for help. Even today I have a knack for thoroughly doing my own research for any type of help needed and drag my feet when needing help.
But when my first son was several years old we quickly realized we were going to need help, and a LOT of it. My son, now 11, has autism and this was a new world for us. Sometimes it was more like a swirling black hole that we were clawing to get out of. I quickly learned to put two feet out and not only advocate for my son but advocate for myself and reach out for help. Now was not the time to be shy about getting help – we needed somewhere to turn. If I didn’t know where to get help from I launched myself in one direction and just started, then redirected as I discovered more resources.
As my children are getting older I want them to be comfortable in needing the extra help and resources we have found in counselors, occupational therapy, social skills groups, etc. that their peers maybe don’t need. I remind them that they are in school to learn and to have teachers HELP them learn. It’s the same thing when we go to a counselor – they HELP us with tough situations, feelings, new transitions, and ideas in life. If they aren’t comfortable with who they are seeing or don’t like it we immediately reevaluate.
You need someone your child trusts completely and is comfortable around. Life doesn’t come with a playbook and no one is exactly like anyone else. I like to tell my kids to embrace their uniqueness – normal is boring! Why would you want to be like everyone else? Obviously not to ostracize them (or the average person) in any way but to encourage them that our world and culture is built on the creativity and uniqueness of others.
Honestly I think everyone needs someone to talk to – myself included. One morning we were with the counselor and although we both felt we had explored almost all of our options in a particular area we were able to hash out a few new ideas that are making a world of difference. Sometimes it’s baby steps, but sometimes it completely transforms our world.
After talking with several parents who were having difficulties with their children for various reasons (some school related, some home related) I have suggested they try reaching out for professional help. It never fails – 9 times out of 10 the parent is surprised at the suggestion and has never even considered it! And 9 times out of 10 when my kids mention they are leaving school early to head to see their counselor their classmates look confused and don’t understand.
Help your own children understand and be comfortable with seeking help and teach them how to help other kids understand too. Everyone needs a mentor – no matter how old or young you are.
Sometimes we are so caught up in just surviving our busy schedules. Work, home, school, and everything in between…..it’s so easy to forget to step back and look at the life skills you are teaching your children. Academic success isn’t everything (although undoubtedly important). Kids will thrive in society with a more well rounded approach to life. Help them understand that not everyone is the same – and that doesn’t just mean physically.
It’s not just about awareness but acceptance. Sometimes people think differently too, and sometimes they need help straightening their thoughts out, and that’s OK too. Some people need more help than others and if you aren’t sure if you need help – chances are you do!