Tuesday November 29, 2022
Man…gotta love social media. It brought an amazing excerpt to my feed today, written by Jeff Foster. It’s called ‘When You Try to Fix Me.’ (If you haven’t read it, here’s a link to the post that I shared in The ParenTween Connection Facebook group today.)
I remember as a kid when I’d share something that was frustrating me, my mom would frequently try to offer solutions to the situation. She was TOTALLY trying to help! But MAN did it piss me off! I couldn’t articulate it then, but I didn’t WANT a solution. When she offered it to me, I felt like she thought I couldn’t figure it out. Poor woman was seriously just trying to be helpful!
Recently, as I’ve been navigating some challenges, several friends have been in the same position my mom was back then: I share something frustrating, the friends offer suggestions or ideas in an effort to help me find my way through the muck.
So, it makes perfect sense that reading Jeff Foster’s post today struck a nerve. If you haven’t read it yet, allow me to except the last sentence:
“So stop trying to fix me, and please, love me instead, be present with me as I heal…”
When my friends have really, truly only been trying to help, I have felt diminished, as if I couldn’t figure it out myself. Or, depending on the situation, maybe there wasn’t actually ANYTHING that I could do – but I was still frustrated. To be honest, it’s gotten to the point that I just don’t share stuff like that with certain friends anymore – I know they mean well. But I just can’t handle the feelings that come up with them anymore.
And I’m a reasonably well-adjusted 40-something woman.
Imagine how the 14-year-old kiddo in your life feels. They likely don’t yet have the vocabulary to articulate their frustration.
You probably hear ‘You’re not listening to me!’ Or they knock down every word that comes out of your mouth, seemingly without even hearing what you’ve said. Or they just stomp into their bedroom and slam the door behind them.
And you’re left there, stunned, wondering what the heck just happened.
What likely landed for them, without you even THINKING it (never mind actually SAYING it), is that you don’t trust them to figure it out. You don’t think they can navigate the situation without you automatically offering a solution.
So, what’s an adult to do?
Next, count to thirty – give them space to at least START getting their thoughts out.
When you think they’re done, give them more space. You can ask a question about what they just shared, or you can invite them to continue with something like, ‘Tell me more.’ Keep inviting them to share as long as it takes for them to let it all out. Flat out ask them: is there anything else going on that would help me get the full picture?
Then, when you just can’t bite your tongue anymore, ask, ‘So, what do you plan to do about the situation?’
And when they inevitably say, ‘I don’t know,’ inquire, ‘Well, what options do you see on the table?’
And then, ‘What do you see as the pros and cons of one of the options?’
Continue guiding them through THEIR OWN THOUGHTS…
They may or may not ultimately ask for your insight. That’s their prerogative. But taking the opportunity to guide them through the muck of their thoughts and emotions gives them a chance to sort through the yuck, process the ups and downs, and practice coming to their own solution. And THAT, my friends, influences absolutely every aspect of their lives.