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  • Slow Down Psychology LLC

"If they would just..."

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A thought that often comes to me when working with parents of moody, explosive, angry kids is: "never underestimate the power of really sh*tty well-intentioned, unsolicited advice." 

"If they would just…" is a big one I see from loving and concerned friends, aunts, cousins, grandparents, and hell, even some medical practitioners.

"If they would just take a probiotic, they'd be less depressed." 

"If you would just take away the phone, their grades would improve."

"They'd feel less suicidal if they'd just join this support group." 

Are these caring individuals wrong? Technically, no. Many people feel less depressed after taking over the counter supplements (and I love a good probiotic). I have seen many (but not most) kids turn things around academically after losing phone privileges. And yes, there are amazing support groups for suicidal teens. 


I bet these comments came before any true empathic connection with you, weary parent. It wouldn't surprise me if you confided in these people because what you needed was a shoulder to cry on, or a place to vent. To be seen and not judged. My biggest pet peeve with these comments is that they often come from a place of assuming that you, dear parent, have not already exhausted all of your mental and financial resources trying to figure out how to ease your child's suffering. 

When parents come to me after hearing these comments, especially when their kids are really, REALLY stuck, I often chuckle and ask, "Is that person offering to come to your home and execute this plan?"

Is this person planning to force feed your kid that probiotic after they've hurled it across the room? 

Are they going to come over at 9:00PM and take away the phone (and stick around during the inevitable explosion that comes after)? 

Is this an offer to convince your child to join said support group (and make sure they keep going week after week)?

It's not always possible to stop these comments from coming at you, especially when they're coming from someone you love and/or respect. But I wonder if there's room for a playful retort here, even if you can't say it out loud.

Dear parent, I know you're busting your ass already. I know you've spent hours going down internet rabbit holes about the cause and the solution for your child's issues. This message doesn't offer a tangible solution, because you and I are probably already working on that. This is simply to say, I see you, and I know you're working hard.

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