Last night I picked my son up from Air Cadets and immediately knew something was wrong.
His shoulders were hunched. He had tears in his eyes. He was desperately holding it all together so he didn’t lose face in front of his mates. As he jumped in the car, he didn’t ask to go for our usual drive out together in the car (we’re both petrol heads). Instead, he just sat there without any of his usual sparkly energy or bubbly chatter.
‘How was this evening, darling?’, I asked.
He shrugged and burst into tears.
Not one for crying so much these days, being a 13-year-old, I drove us straight home and just sat on the drive. Him pouring his heart out. Tears streaming down his face. Me listening so he could just let it out.
As his sniffles subsided we got to the root of the problem and, with a bit of questioning from me, he came up with a plan of action and found who else he could turn to.
I’m sure for many parents this scenario will resonate. Our kids’ troubles and upset sting us like hell, but I’m a true believer in not always being the one to provide the answers and let others find their own solutions. I don’t know Air Cadets protocol or chain of command, but my son does. I don’t know exactly who he feels most comfortable to turn to, but he does. I didn’t know how he wanted to address the situation, but eventually, he found a way through it that felt right to him. My role was enough to listen and support his thinking.
It’s not always our place to give answers or be a problem-solver. The best solutions often come from the person themselves.
It is absolutely ok to sit and just listen to someone in need. Don’t finish their sentences. Don’t make assumptions of what they’re thinking. Just listen and empower them in doing so.
But it is our duty to be human. To give others our time and support when they’re not in a great place, so they don’t feel alone, so they can begin to try and find a solution or pathway that feels right for them. It is our human duty to spot when others aren’t their usual selves and just ask if they want a kind sounding board.
So, please from this day forth, practice your empathetic humanness. ‘None of us needs to be a trained psychiatrist or psychotherapist to be able to support one another, we just need to be human.’ *
With love, Jo x
* Quoting Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind during Episode 3 of the podcast ‘A Place to Thrive’ which you can find on Spotify, iTunes and all other great podcasting platforms.