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  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    How to Ask For Help: Tips and Guide

    How to Ask For Help: Tips and Guide
    Estimated time to read 5 minutes

    Human babies are more dependent than most other mammals, requiring an enormous amount of care for a long period of time. The theory is that the evolutionary purpose of this was to bond an entire tribe to a new baby, requiring them to help care for it to ensure tribes stayed together and survived. So the idea that “it takes a village”, is not only true, but part of what makes us human.  

    So then, why is it so dang hard to ask for help? As a parent, it's normal to feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the responsibilities of raising a child. However, many parents find it difficult to ask for help despite needing assistance. Reaching out for support can feel daunting or unnecessary, but it is critical for you and your child's mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Plus, many people in your life genuinely want to help you and may not know how, so not asking is denying them that opportunity to bond with you and your new baby.  It can be even more crucial for single parents to create a network of trusted friends that will provide the needed social support. 

    In this blog post, we'll explore why many parents struggle to ask for help and learn some simple tips on how to ask for help. 

    Why Can It Be So Challenging to Ask for Help from Others?

    Asking for help from others can sometimes feel daunting and embarrassing, particularly when parents feel vulnerable. Many people feel as though they will appear weak, incompetent, or inferior. Research from Stanford University demonstrates that children as young as seven can hold this belief. After all, they reason, shouldn’t I be able to do all of this on my own? Won’t I be a burden to others if I ask for help since I'm not in any obvious physical pain? Here are some of the most common reasons why parents are hesitant to ask for help:

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    Fear of rejection

    It can feel uncomfortable to ask for help for fear of rejection. Even with a valid reason, sometimes rejection hurts!

    Low self-esteem

    If you're feeling bad about yourself or are working through other mental health issues, you might feel bad or ashamed to be asking for help.

    Would rather give help than receive

    Giving help can be really fulfilling, and you might prefer to give rather than receive. But remember, there are seasons where you'll give and seasons you should receive.

    Feeling like you can or should do it yourself

    Asking for help can be tough when you feel like whatever you are asking for is something you can do yourself. For example, a few people are capable of cleaning their own homes, but that doesn't mean that a new mom shouldn't ask for help in cleaning her home so that she can focus on resting and nourishing herself and her baby.

    Not wanting to be a burden

    You might feel like asking for help means putting the burden on someone else. But people tend to want to help and don't agree to help if it would feel too burdensome.

    Poor modeling

    Perhaps you have observed a parent or family member who always took on everything themselves, so you haven't seen a good example of how to ask for help or why it can be so beneficial. These experiences can play a big role in how we are modeled as humans.

    Gender conditioning that women should “do it all” 

    It might feel like society undervalues women and their needs and acts like raising a baby and performing housework. This can send the message that all of this work isn't that hard, so women should be able to handle it all. It can also feed the narrative that needing help is a “weakness”. This can be especially hard for a woman who identifies as strong and independent.

    How You Can Get Better at Asking for Help When Needed

    Asking for help is a skill that parents can develop with practice. The most important thing is to just start doing it! It doesn't need to be hard or complicated, but here are some other tips and a few creative solutions that might help you ask for help:

    Engage in self-reflection

    There might be a reason you have a fear of asking for help, like past emotional pain or a negative experience. Think through prior times you asked for help and how it played out and how that might have contributed to your fear.

    Remember that most people enjoy helping others

    Most people want to be a helpful person and feel joy and satisfaction from helping others.

    Ask privately, praise publicly

    Make your request privately so the person you ask doesn't feel uncomfortable or obligated to respond in a certain way. However, when someone helps or agrees to help, you can consider a more public display of appreciation. Just keep the person's personality in mind and show gratitude in a way that you think they would most appreciate.

    Understand that people might say no

    People might say no, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they don't want to help. It might just mean that they don’t have the bandwidth at that moment. Do your best to not take it personally.

    Talk to a therapist, coach, supportive friend, etc.

    If you need some emotional support or want to dig into why you might face such resistance to asking for help, seek professional help to address any mental health issue.

    Just do it!

    Practice is everything. The more you ask, the more you will realize that most people really want to help. You’ll probably be surprised how easily they say yes!

    3 Steps to Asking for Help

    If you are still hesitant, we'll break it down a bit more. Here are 3 simple steps to asking for help.

    1. Decide who to ask and what help you need

    Determine who you think would be the best person to ask for whatever specific task you need. This is a great way to make a smart request. For example, maybe you want someone to take your older child for a couple of hours so you can get some rest or get something else done, so you ask a neighbor with a child around the same age.

    2. Choose a good time to ask for help

    Consider the convenience and practicality of when you ask for help. For example, giving as much lead time as possible is typically best. In addition, factor in what you know about the other person's life. If you know they work full time, avoid reaching out during the work day.

    3. Be clear and concise about what you need

    Don’t apologize for asking for help. It doesn't have to be a purely transactional exchange, just be clear and concise about exactly what you need help with - what is it and when do you need the help? You can frame it in the context of why you could use the support, but keep it brief and to the point.

    Remember, when you get a response, either receive the help with gratitude and without apology, or accept a rejection logically and not emotionally.

    Takeaway

    Most people love to help others, but most people also hate to ask for help! Know that you are not alone if you are hesitant, but also that there are probably so many people in your life who would love to help you. We hope our tips and context are helpful to you as you ride along your parenting journey.

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