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All parents need help sometimes-help with the day-to-day care of children, help in figuring out how to sooth a colicky baby, help getting to the ER when a bad accident happens, help in managing one’s own temper when fatigued or upset. When parents are faced with very trying conditions or trauma, they need access to concrete support and services that address their needs and help minimize the stress caused by the difficult challenges and adversity. Assisting parents to identify, find and receive concrete support in times of need helps to ensure they and their family receive the basic necessities everyone deserves in order to grow (e.g., healthy food, a safe environment), as well as specialized medical, mental health, social, educational or legal services.

When parents are faced with overwhelmingly stressful conditions they need to seek help, but for some parents asking for help is not an easy thing to do. It may be embarrassing for some parents because it feels like an admission of incompetence; that they don’t know how to solve their own problems or take care of their family. That’s why parents need experiences that enable them to understand their rights in accessing services, gain knowledge of relevant services and learn how to navigate through service systems. It’s important to know it’s ok and when to ask for help.

Seeking help is a step toward improving one’s circumstances and learning to better manage stress and function well-even when faced with challenges, adversity, and trauma. When parents ask for help, it is a step toward building resilience. When parents seek help, it should be provided in a manner that does not increase stress. Services should be coordinated, respectful, caring and strengths-based. A strengths-based approach helps parents feel valued because they are acknowledged as knowledgeable and competent. They develop a sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy because they have opportunities to build their skills, experience success and provide help to others.

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Access to concrete support in times of need must be accompanied by a quality of service coordination and delivery that is designed to preserve parents’ dignity and to promote their own and their family’s healthy development, resilience and ability to advocate for and receive needed services and resources.

Concrete Support In Times of Need Action Ideas:

What to ask yourself:

  • What do you need to __________ (stay in your house, keep your job, pay your bill, etc.)?
  • What have you done to handle the problem? Has it worked?
  • Are there community groups or local services that you have worked with in the past? What has been your experience accessing their services?
  • Are there specific barriers that have made it difficult for you to access services in the past?
  • How does dealing with these issues impact the way you parent?

What to look for:

  • Are you open to accessing and utilizing services?
  • Have you had positive experiences with services in the past?
  • Are there personal behavioral traits that you could address to more effectively utilize services?
  • Do you try to buffer the child from the stress caused by the family’s concrete needs?

Activities to do:

  1. Identify one concrete need that, if met, would lighten your burden. Come up with a list of at least three possible avenues to get that need met.
  2. What was your socioeconomic status in your childhood, and what effect did it have on you? What did your parents do or not do to buffer you from the stress of poverty, to teach you the value of money or to make sure your needs were met.

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