The power of saying ‘How can I help?’

If you’ve ever struggled to understand what’s bothering your child, try saying ‘how can I help?’ It’s a simple way to encourage your little one to open up and give you insight into their worries.

It’s easy to forget how scary many aspects of childhood are. Being a small child in the big world can be intimidating and overwhelming, and maybe even a little terrifying! When faced with negative feelings or an undesirable situation, the natural reaction for many children is to shut down and get upset.

For parents, it can be very useful to have a few ‘go-to’ phrases on hand to coax your little one out of the mood they’re in and to help them move past whatever is troubling them. One such phrase is, ‘how can I help?’

Offering support

As soon as your child hears the words ‘how can I help?’, they’ll feel supported. As long as you speak in a gentle and patient tone, your little one will know that they can relax slightly, and that you have their back. It might be the case that your child has fallen and hurt their knee, or had an argument with a close friend, or even that they’re upset because they got in trouble at school. Whatever the issue, try to initially put the consequences aside and do what you can to help your child.

While most children will want their parents to take the lead if they get themselves into a bad situation, saying this magic phrase shows them that you value their input. Your child will feel that you are willing to listen to them and want to help in a way that suits them.

Getting to the root

Another reason that saying this magic phrase to your little one is so effective, is that it can help us parents to understand what the root cause of our child’s woe actually is. Saying ‘how can I help?’ is like donning your investigator’s hat. This question is the perfect gateway to opening a conversation with your child about how they’re feeling. If you notice that your child is upset about something and you ask ‘what’s wrong?’, there’s a chance that they’ll feel confronted and avoid the question. If you were to press them on it, they may prefer to say that they’re fine, rather than open up.

‘How can I help?’ works brilliantly because it circumvents the issue of whether or not your child is upset and instead positions you on their side, ready and willing to assist them. This means that they’re much more likely to tell you what’s affecting them, through asking you to help in a specific way. Based on the help that they ask you for, you’ll be able to deduce what the root cause of their worry is.

As a parent, it’s very useful to have a few magic phrases up your sleeve. Not only will ‘how can I help?’ encourage your little one to express themselves, it’ll also make decoding your child’s worries a lot easier!

Image Credit: ShutterStock

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