By Alison Mays, MSW, LCSW
I work with many teenagers who are struggling academically. When asked why they are not
asking for help in school they often respond that they do not want to “look stupid” or
“show that I don’t understand.” They believe it is a weakness to not know everything and
to need help in school. It feels natural to want to do for ourselves but, this is not
always the most effective means of accomplishment. Parents can help to shift their
child’s perspective by teaching that it is healthy to ask for help.
I frequently ask people “how good are you at asking for help?” and I often get a confused
look and common responses are “I have never even thought about it” or “I don’t ask for help;
I handle everything on my own.” We are taught to be self-sufficient and independent from a
young age. There is resistance to asking for support from others. For many, the idea means
that they are weak, incapable or not good enough. The truth is that we all do need help at
many points in our lives. It is healthy to acknowledge that there are times when help is
needed and to ask for it. The ability to ask when in need is a strength and not a weakness.
Successful, motivated people make a habit of asking for assistance and support as a means of
reaching their goals.
When we ask for help from others, we become more productive and create opportunities for
connections with others. We gain information or assistance that is needed to complete a
goal or a task. The ability to recognize when we need support from others is important
and necessary for success. The most successful football quarterback in the league may need
help with the accuracy of his throw. No one is good at everything.
It is important to model healthy behavior for our children and to let them see us asking
for and receiving help from others. When children observe their parents receiving assistance,
it encourages them to do the same. We all need help with something. Teach children that it
is healthy to ask for assistance when needed and help them to identify which adults to ask
for help. Encouraging this attitude in ourselves and our children promotes growth, goal
attainment, and security in their abilities.
“The only mistake you can make is not asking for help.” – Sandeep Jauhar
Alison is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She received a Bachelor’s of Social Work degree from North Carolina State University and a Masters of Social Work degree from Boston College. She has experience working with children, adolescents and their families in multiple settings. She currently has a private practice in Wilmington, North Carolina. You can reach Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org.