Fatherly Dad advice does not have to only come from biological Dads. There are young people that you will encounter in your life that will need your guidance. If they have the courage to approach you, stop and pay attention. Through my career either as a youth pastor, coach, or teacher, I have had many young people that have approached me with concerns from A-Z.
Why would a kid approach a dad figure outside of his/her family? There are many reasons. Sometimes they just want a second opinion, when they have already spoken with their own parents. Everything comes down to the subject matter. We all know that not every question is paramount, yet can be important to the young person who is asking. This may have to do with topics as trivial as music, sports, a workout, or even current events. While expressing your thoughts on these matters is usually harmless, there are personal pieces of advice that triggers my “go-to” question.
Anytime we talk about issues such as relationships, health, or anything intimate, I always ask, have you spoken to your parents about this matter. If the subject matter makes you uncomfortable, or you feel that such discussions would not be appropriate, you need to be honest. Another option is to discuss such issues only if there is a witness to the conversation. There have been times when I have responded that “I am probably not the best resource for them on this matter”. You must be the one to judge the situation and know when it is best to get involved or not.
Many of my students have heard this response from me. “Well, I can’t tell you what you should do. I can, however, tell you how I would handle the situation if I were facing it”. You must remember that you are not them and they are not you. You can only assess situations as you, not them.
To give the best advice means that you are informed well about the situation. With your own children, there should be fewer questions just because you know them better. For kids outside of your household, it is important to ask questions. It is important to take mental or even literal notes to have the best opportunity to help them correctly. Sometimes, the mere listening to the kid will allow them to see their situation with more clarity. Talking through an issue can allow clarity on an issue or let things process in a helpful manner.
A huge piece of advice that I will give to the temporarily adopted dads is to respond with questions instead of a statement. There is a discipline that I have become a strong advocate for. It is to resist the urge to blurt out a solution or answer. A wonderful book for those of you desiring to be the best advice-givers is Just Listen by Mark Goulston. Obviously you will do more than just listen. However, the discipline is to get individuals to expand on their situation and feelings in order to make them feel heard or understood. Saying things like, “tell me more”, or “hmmmmm” can make them feel important and or worth your time. Most of us dads like to jump in with our “Obi Wan Kenobi” advice. We think we have the answer and we cut them short. Be careful not to do this. Without a clear picture of their problem, you could make things worse. Then you would be “Obi Wan K-dumbass”.
Always encourage a healthy relationship with parents. I try to explain to the students/kids that approach me for advice that while they may not feel understood by a parent, that it is also possible that they (the kid) may lack some understanding of the parent. Unless there is something abusive reported, always be a proponent of the parent/child relationship.
If there is abuse reported, you need to get help from a professional and report the situation. To be completely clear, you can jeopardize yourself as well as the child if you fail to do so. You need to know what the law requires and respond accordingly. This is NOT betraying the child’s trust. Their safety and well being must be the top priority.
Remember that reading the situation is more important than having an answer. You need to know what response or lack thereof best serves this youngster. There are times when you will not be the best resource for them. Try and connect them with someone that can help. The situation of giving dad advice is not about you. It is taking the time how to best serve them. Be there for them. Be the best “adopted” dad possible.
Don’t Forget to Get Your Copy of My New Book