ASKING FOR HELP IS OK
Parenting is one of life’s greatest challenges. Asking for help could make all the difference.
IT'S OK TO OFFER HELP
See how you can offer help to others when you see the pressure of parenting getting to them. One conversation can make a massive difference.
WHAT HELP TO ASK FOR?
Help comes in many forms. What help do you need most?
WHO CAN I ASK?
If you take a moment to consider it, you might be surprised at how many people there are in your every day life who might be able to help you.
What’s Talking Families all about?
We all know that life is getting busier, and pressure on families is growing. Yet many of us are uncomfortable with asking for help when we need it, or just don’t know where to turn. But you’re never as alone as you might think.
It’s OK to talk about how you feel, or to ask family and friends for the help you need.
One conversation … could make all the difference.
This is a Queensland Family and Child Commission initiative.
Where to start
Deep down, everyone knows that when parents take proper care of themselves they cope better with the pressures of raising kids – and life becomes more enjoyable and rewarding for everyone in the family.
That’s why it’s totally OK to ask others around you for help.
But how do you start the conversation?
What kind of help do I need?
Start by thinking about the sort of help you need. What will make the biggest difference to your situation? It’s much easier for someone to help you, if they know exactly what help you require. Here are some ideas on what help to ask for:
- I just need to talk
Having someone to talk to, who listens and cares, or someone to help you get your mind off things for a while.
- Can you mind the kids for a short time?
So you get the time to do something for yourself, or connect with a partner or loved one.
- Please help me with extra support for my kids?
Do you need someone who can help them with tasks that you don’t have the time or ability for?
- Do I need help from a professional?
Do you need help from a counsellor, occupational therapist, teacher or childcare worker to help build your skills or learn how to make the most of your strengths?
- Any other ideas?
After all, we’re all unique…
Some ideas on who to ask
If you take a moment to consider it, you might just be surprised at how many people there are in your every day life who might be able to help you. Who could help you most easily? Who can give you the help you need?
Some ideas on how to ask for help
The following ideas could help start the conversation that makes all the difference to you.
Making an approach
You can ask for help face-to-face, over the phone or via text or email. Remember that while email or text may seem like the easiest option – we’re often more able to express ourselves verbally. It may also be harder to get someone’s attention this way.
Starting the conversation
Here are some conversation opening ideas:
- “I’m so glad I ran into you…”
- “I’m so glad you picked up, I wanted to talk to you about something…”
- “I don’t feel like I’m doing that well at the moment…”
- “I’m feeling a bit stressed at the minute and don’t feel like I’m coping…”
- “You might have noticed I haven’t seemed myself lately…”
Asking for help
Try to be as clear as possible about the help you need.
- “Can we meet for a cuppa and a chat?”
- “(Dave) and I aren’t finding the time to talk about what’s going on with us right now. Could you take the kids for an hour to two while we work some things out?”
- “I’ve just been so tired and stressed that I feel like I can’t get my head together. Would you mind taking the kids for a playdate one afternoon? I really need to get some sleep and some time to myself to think some things through…”
- “You seem really good at keeping organised and on time – how do you get everything done each day without losing it?”
What if I don’t get the help I need?
Sometimes you might not get the response you were looking for, but don’t give up – you might just need to ask a little differently: Think about:
- Being clearer or more specific about what you need
- Asking someone else
- Maybe offer some help in return like car-pooling or play dates
If you can’t get the help you need from those around you, there are many family support services available in the community. Ask your GP, Community Nurse, or even your child’s teachers. They can help direct you to some helpful services.
It’s nice to let the person who helped you know that they were helpful, and made a big difference to you and your family.
Helping someone else
Maybe you can think about how you can help someone else. Raising a family can be difficult for everyone from time to time. Just because you are asking for help, doesn’t mean you don’t have strengths that would benefit someone else.
THE POWER OF TALKING…
“My first child was a dream baby – she did everything right; she fed, burped, slept by routine. She never cried. My second child had extremely bad reflux, and didn’t like to be held. This really upset me. He would cry after feed time and I would hold and rock him trying to get him to settle. He would scream. He would sleep for an hour and then wake screaming again. I had very little sleep at all. One day I was tired and frustrated and I put him in the cot. I walked down to the backyard and sat under a tree crying. The more he screamed the more I cried. The old lady from next door came down to me and I thought she was going to get up me for not looking after my child, instead she said “It’s ok to let this one cry himself to sleep”. And, like magic, he just stopped. It gave me such a fright to hear silence I ran up the stairs fearing the worst. But he was sound asleep. The old lady followed me and said “Off to sleep with you too, I’ll watch the other little one.” So she looked after my daughter and my baby and I slept for four hours – the most either of us had slept since we got home from hospital. I felt so good after that, and while my son still screamed and hardly ever slept, I felt like the lady next door was not judging me so I was less anxious about it. This one intervention gave me my confidence back.”
Some ideas on offering help
When you see someone you know struggling with parenting, it’s normal to be a little worried about starting a conversation about it.
While everyone appreciates genuine understanding and help, it can be hard for parents to recognise that they’re not coping and need some help.
Here are some ideas on how to get the conversation started.
It’s important to approach the situation gently.
CREATE THE RIGHT MOMENT
It can be hard for people to open up when they are caught in a stressful situation so it’s helpful to create the right place and time to chat. You could invite the parent over for a coffee or a play date. You could also send an email or private Facebook message. But remember, many people prefer to chat about something rather than read through an email. Get the conversation rolling with a general, non-confronting question like:
- “How are things on the home-front?…
Another way could be to talk to the parent about what’s happening with their children like:
- “How are the kids going? …
- “I remember how hard it was when my kids were at that stage, you getting enough time for yourself?”
LISTEN AND RESPOND
Sometimes it’s tempting to jump straight to the solutions, but it’s important to give them enough time to explain how they are feeling. It’s best to listen and acknowledge the situation in a non-judgemental way with statements like “That sounds like a tough situation.”
GET THEM THINKING
Often, just talking through a situation and feelings helps parents work things out themselves – but sometimes it’s best to work it out together. Ask them what they think would help; and how you may be able to support them. Remember to be realistic about the help you can offer. Explore whether they need:
- To just chat about their situation or how they are feeling
- Time away from the kids for themselves
- Time with their partner to talk things through
- Practical help to relieve time pressures
WHAT IF THEY DON’T WANT HELP?
It can be difficult for parents to acknowledge they need assistance. If you feel like they don’t want to talk, remind them that you understand it’s difficult and that you are available to listen or to help them if they need. Sometimes it may take a few attempts for someone to accept help that’s offered. Or, if they don’t want to talk to you, try suggesting other people that they may want to talk to – like a family member, GP or professional support service.
The process of accepting help can be difficult for some of us. So it’s important that you follow through on your commitments.
OFFERING HELP IS REWARDING
“I noticed that one of the daycare mum’s appearance and demeanour was changing and that she had become abrupt, rough and hard on her girls – I sensed she was struggling. I invited her over for a kid’s play day and had a coffee – while the kids were occupied I said “This parenting thing is tough, how are you going?” I found out during our chat that she had witnessed a terrible act of family violence when she was six. She said she was doing well, but that lately she had been having nightmares again. I encouraged her to go see someone but she said she had no time because she was always looking after kids. So I offered to take her two kids every week on the day she had an appointment.
After about six months and with medication she was a lot better. Her eldest had told me on the days that she was with me that “Mummy gets so angry sometimes we just hide under our beds”. About a year later, her husband was talking to mine and thanked him for what I had done. I’m so glad I plucked up the courage to talk to her about it.”
Help can come in many ways
Sometimes, as a parent, we need someone to talk to, time to ourselves, or simply practical help in our busy lives.
Here are some ideas on help you can offer:
- Talking about a tough situation over a coffee
- Spending time with a parent so they feel less alone
- Going on a play date in the park or an afternoon fishing
- Babysitting, so parents can spend time together or get sleep
- Car pooling for school or taking the kids to dancing or footy training
- Making meals for a family going through a difficult time
- Helping around the house or yard
It can be useful for a parent to know that others have been in a similar situation and how they have overcome that situation. But it’s important to remember that some situations require professional assistance. Encouraging them to see their GP, speak to a psychologist, or school counsellor can set them on the path to finding the right help.
Where else can i go?
If you feel like you don’t have someone you can talk to about your situation or how you’re feeling, there is a network of services available to support parents and families.
- Family and Child Connect – is a free service to help you with the challenges of parenting.
- Parentline – provides confidential counselling for parents. Phone Parentline on 1300 301 300, from 8am-10pm, 7 days a week for the cost of a local call.
- Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Council – lists local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services for families to access throughout Queensland. Services include, health care, child wellbeing, parenting support, mums and bubs programs and more.
- Torres Strait-Northern Peninsula Hospital and Health Services – facility profiles for Bamaga Hospital, Thursday Island Hospital and Thursday Island Primary Health Care Centre.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples information – information about education and training, employment and business, family and social support, having your say and other useful info.
- Raising Children Network – a comprehensive website offering resources and information on parenting for children of all ages.
- The Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) – provides parents with practical information and support to deal with and prevent common emotional and behavioural problems in children.
- The Young Parents Program and Young Parents Support Program – offer parenting advice and practical support for young parents.
- Lifeline – provides 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention. Phone 13 11 44.
- Child and baby health clinics – provide health services for babies and children in Queensland.
Single parents and stepfamilies
- Search the Raising Children Network – for support and advice for foster carers, grandparents, same-sex parents, sole parents and step-parents.
- Information for separated families – is available from the Australian Government’s Department of Human Services. This includes a child’s guide to changing families.
- Read more about step and extended families.
Connecting with other parents
- Baby and child forums – let you share advice, concerns and stories with other parents. The forums are organised according to the age of your child.
- MyTime groups – offer parents of children with disability the opportunity to socialise and share information with peers.
- Parent to parent – is a support network for parents who have a family member with disability.