Can I get an “Amen” if you personally know how challenging it is to raise a teen or young adult today?
Even on our kids’ best days, this phase of life is a hit parade of stressors. We are dealing with anxieties over finances, our personal health, the health issues of our aging parents, and the often fragile mental health of our teens. Throw in the next-level challenges of parenting kids with special needs, kids dealing with bullying or discrimination, and those struggling academically, and things get downright impossible.
Parenting can be overwhelming
We need to act on our compassion for other parents because we all have days that are overwhelming.
And it’s difficult for many of us to ask for help, or to extend help. We know that everyone is busy dealing with their own stuff. When we know that a friend or neighbor is grappling with more than just the normal annoyances of parenting, we’re good at sending out the “I’m here if you need me” texts or the proverbial “Let me know what I can do to help” phrase as we pass each other in a parking lot. But how can we move past those kind gestures and pretty words and really act on our compassion for a fellow parent in need?
Here is how you can actually support a fellow parent:
1. Share your expertise
Everyone is incredibly talented at something. If Geometry is your jam, tell your friend you’re coming over to tutor her son before his big test. Got an eye for fashion? Take your neighbor’s daughter out to help her find a dress for the school dance or a business outfit for her interview. During my daughter’s stressful senior year of high school, I loved that one of her friend’s moms had a group of girls over occasionally for a guided meditation evening. Sharing your talents can truly help an exhausted parent out.
2. Plan a “Just Listening” meet-up once a month
Last month, I ran into a friend and we both happened to admit we were suffering from a headache. We decided to duck into the nearby coffee shop to get some caffeine and chat. One quick question about her job opened the floodgates to her sharing with me that she was seriously thinking about ending her marriage. I had no inkling that anything was amiss. She relayed that she’d kept quiet about it with her family for fear of hearing “We told you so.”
I listened silently as she vented for almost an hour, simply nodding my head and providing an ear. As we got up to leave, she smiled and said her headache was gone and we both acknowledged the benefit of emotional release. Since that day, I’ve decided to make a monthly date with a different friend to just listen to them.
3. Go support another kid doing their thing
Teens activities today can be draining for parents. Their practices, games, and performances take up a lot of our time, money and energy. One caring way to support a fellow parent is to offer to take their child to a practice or to an event if they can’t make it, or to simply go with them to watch.
A dad friend of ours who only has daughters and normally spent time at high school spirit line events, made a point each season to go watch our son play a school golf match. A set of outside eyes can give parents a deeper appreciation for their child’s efforts and shows true friendship and interest, not to mention giving them a break from their normal routine.
4. Pray for your extended circle
I know a wonderful woman who goes to her church one night each week simply to pray for others. She reaches out on social media with a “How may I pray for you tonight?” post. She doesn’t care if you share her religious beliefs, or if you don’t formally practice any religion yourself. She merely wants to help anyone she knows who has a need and prayer is one of her love languages. Letting someone know you are thinking good thoughts for and about them is a comfort measure for many.
5. Initiate an action
Transform the passive “I’m here if you need me” into active service for a friend who is struggling. Similar to giving a young child the choice between two clothing options, consider detailed offers of assistance like these:
“I’m bringing over dinner this week – pick Wednesday or Thursday night.”
“We will come by on Saturday morning to help you out. Do you prefer we do some laundry and water the plants or run some errands for you?”
“Drop your kids off at my house on Friday afternoon so you can have some self-care time. Should I have them back that night or the next morning?”
Just verbalizing our availability to help out another parent is easy but is literally the least we can do. Many people are not comfortable asking for our help, even when they admit they’re hurting and scared.
Converting our words into compassionate action requires real thought and effort and stepping into someone else’s suffering can feel uncomfortable. But by cultivating and demonstrating compassion, we open ourselves to a wider view of humanity and greater connection within all of our relationships.
It takes a village–of villagers who kindly step up and are proactive about their help.
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