By my side: how to help teens and not take over

It’s just me. Just me, on my own trying to work out how to do this thing called life. And well I’m not very good at it mostly. Neither are most of the people around me. So you could say I’m a bit clueless. A leaky boat, cast adrift, praying that the next wave that comes crashing down doesn’t sink me.

Even the people who try to help me often don’t really help. They try and take over, try and tell me what to do. They try and climb aboard and declare themselves the captain and issue orders as to what I need to do to get myself seaworthy. Would be nice to be asked. Then I could tell them that I don’t want them to take over- it’s my life. As it is, I often end up throwing them overboard anyhow. I’d rather be stuck on a sinking ship that’s mine, than a fixed-up boat that’s not. Either way, I still end up alone.

Even if they try and patch up the holes and the leaks, they won’t fix the problem. If they don’t draw alongside me, find out what the fabric of my life is, how I tick, what motivates me, the structure of my vessel, then they won’t be able to find the right sort of materials to make me watertight. They’ll just apply some generic ‘fixing’ material that won’t bond, won’t become an integral part of my vessel, of me. And over time I’ll start to leak again and the patch will fall off. I’ll be as leaky as I ever was.

The truth is that no-one can fix me while I passively sit here, having a makeover done to me. I need to be involved. Whose boat is this anyway? By all means, guide me towards the location of my leaks, help me explore why I might need to apply some patches, show me what sort of patches I can try, and involve me in the sourcing of any services or materials I might need. If I have no clue how to do it, show me. Don’t do it for me, show me and help me to learn how to do it.

I need people to come alongside me and guide me as I fill out things like job or benefit applications. Show me how to access help and support from charities and council services. Show me where to go and who to ask. And if I lack the skills to do any of this, like the literacy skills to fill out a form or the communications skills to state my needs or ask for help, assist me to gain the skills so I can. Yes, I will need greater support while I gain these skills, but still involve me in the process so I at least learn how to do it in the meantime. Just don’t do it all for me. Help me to do it for myself.

This way I’ll own the repairs. The repairs will bond as the solutions chosen by me will match my individual structure the best way possible. And as I will have chosen them for myself and I will have invested my time and effort into achieving them, with your help, they will be way more likely to last in the long-term.

And you know what else? The next time I spring a leak I’ll have a better idea of what to do, even if I don’t have you to call on. You’ll have given me a toolkit, not a patch.

So it’s about you drawing alongside me and showing me the way. I have to steer and do the repairs. You are at most my navigator, pointing me in the right direction, but I always have the option of going my own way. If you respectfully draw alongside me rather than gung-ho climbing aboard and imposing yourself as the captain, I’ll respect you back and will listen.

And the biggest lesson for me from all of this? It’s not the new tools that I’ve now got (although they areawesome and will last me a lifetime). It’s that I am capable. I’m not totally useless. I can actually do stuff. I’ll have begun to beat the demons that keep me down, keep me doing nothing cos I think I don’t have the ability to change. Self-efficacy I think they call it. Each time I hit a storm or spring a leak, instead of cowering in fear below deck, I’ll face the problem, whip out my toolkit and use my new tools. And every time I use them I’ll get better and better at using them.

You just have to first show me that the tools exist and show me when and how to use them. The second time you might only need to remind me I’ve got them. Eventually I’ll use them without even having to think too hard. It will have become a part of my structure, the way I deal with life. I will have learned how to navigate rather than hide from the storms of life. I will sail under the flag of resilience.

And even if I don’t turn to ask you cos I already know what to do, or because you’re not involved in my life anymore, I’ll still feel you there beside me. I won’t feel so alone and helpless anymore. People who have been by my side and have given me the tools to live aren’t easily forgotten. Your patience, your compassion and your guidance will always remain even if not your name or face. You will always be there beside me, even if it is just the tiniest whisper in the wind as I set out to sail each day.

Anger management not working?

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