Asking and Offering Help

I grew up in a family where asking for help was seen as a sign of weakness. Part of it, I suspect, was the immigrant experience. Society was already stacked against you, so the last thing you’d want to do is give someone another reason to treat you poorly.

As kids, we were groomed to hide weaknesses. If you didn’t know something, you just kept your mouth shut – or worse, you learned to make a wisecrack and let people make their own assumptions. That just led to a lot of defensive posturing when the truth eventually revealed itself.

When I became a 24/7 single, homeschooling parent, my attitude about asking for help changed little by little. Life was such that I simply could not do everything – or know everything – on my own. That was especially true during a certain play date where my kid fell face first into a pile of wood chips and the whole crew of kids came running because they thought a stick punctured his eye. I literally froze with fear as hundreds of terror-filled thoughts streamed through my head.

To my luck another mom, who happened to be a trauma nurse, was present. She gently asked if she could help by taking a look at my little one. Relieved, I gratefully accepted her offer and we soon discovered that all was fine with my son.

It wasn’t until a couple of years later in graduate school that I finally had a true epiphany about help. During my 2nd week of classes, I sat listening to a lecture about formative and summative assessments. After 15 minutes, I still had no freaking clue what the professor was talking about.

I looked around the room of licensed and certified teachers and thought to myself how woefully unprepared I was, as just a homeschool parent, to re-enter the world of academia and pursue an advanced specialty degree in gifted. Part of me wanted to pack my books and just give up.

Mustering my courage, I raised my hand and interrupted the lecture to get clarification. The professor looked at me dumbfounded for a moment before answering my question with a thorough explanation about different types of assessments and when they should be used.

After class, another student thanked me for asking my questions. She said, “I didn’t know what he was talking about, either, but I sure didn’t want to risk looking stupid in front of everyone.”

For me, not wanting to ask for help was a learned behavior but it was also rooted in pride. I believe myself to be a fairly intelligent person, but when I was younger I had all kinds of raging insecurities about how other people perceived me. I also had a fear of being seen as needy or not capable of the independence I coveted from a very early age.

As a parent, I was also aware of how my children behaved when it was clear that they were in need of help, but were not asking. Saying, “Ask me, if you need anything” never really got a meaningful response.

So, I began to rethink how I offered help to others, especially my kids. By framing my offers of help in gentle language that revealed my own struggles and need for assistance in the past, I was able to show there’s no shame in accepting help.

Ways To Offer Help

  • May I offer a suggestion?

  • Do you want to talk about this together or do you need me to just listen?

  • I know when I get nervous before giving a presentation I like to practice in front of a friend. Would that help you tonight?

  • When I was learning calculus, my teacher showed me a trick that helped me finally understand this one concept. I can show it to you, if you want.

  • One of the hardest parts of writing, for me, is making sure I don’t switch verb tenses, so I always find it helpful to have someone read over my draft to help me catch those mistakes. Would you like some editing help with your paper?

  • If you like, I can help you with that project for an hour on Saturday.

  • I really appreciated how you helped me out last week. I see you’re a little behind with your chores. Can I return the favor and lend a hand?

  • You did a really great job with the first part of your project. Can I help in any way so you can get back on track and finish it?

  • What can I do to help?

  • If I make supper at 6pm, will that be a good time for you to take a break from your work?

Share the most effective way you’ve found to offer help to someone.

* * * This blog is part of the October 2015 Hoagies’ Gifted
How & When To Ask For Help Blog Hop.
Visit Hoagie’s Gifted for more great blogs on this topic.* * *



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.

5 thoughts on “Asking and Offering Help

  • October 1, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    The way one is raised effects one’s outlook on life as an adult. The older we get, we develop the wisdom to more clearly make decisions independent from our upbringing. Asking for help should be viewed as a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness.

  • October 1, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Your list of ways to offer help is terrific. I’m going to try to use some of them with friends who find it hard to ask.

  • October 2, 2015 at 12:12 am

    This is a great post, Alessa! Thanks for all of the fabulous and concrete suggestions for offering help.

  • October 2, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    Great article . Your story reminded me of the time my little brother swallowed a piece of a rattan chair & started chocking. My mom quick thinking to call our neighbor who was a nurse for help saved him.

  • October 13, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    I really enjoyed this post! There are so many ways to ask and offer help, and we should teach our kids to accept it gratefully too.

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