When your kids were younger, the chances are that they thought you were the wisest oracle in the world, a pure fount of knowledge that could never be beaten – after all, at that age, you taught them everything they knew!
Even once they’d started their educational journeys, the chances are that you knew enough about the most important math concepts kids learn in pre-k or the basics of literacy to still keep their homework above the water and your reputation as all-knowing unscathed. But, then, they went to college, started learning about goodness knows what, and the holes in your own knowledge become far too obvious to overlook. Suddenly, you’re about as useful for helping with their homework as a chocolate teapot, and you’re worried that their education will suffer as a result.
We’ve all been there, and in many ways, it’s not the bad sign that it seems. After all, this growth in knowledge is a sure sign that your kids are getting the best education possible. That said, even clever kids need help sometimes, and ensuring that you can continue to provide that education-based support is all about implementing the following ‘I don’t know but…’ pointers.
Tip 1 – Ask them questions
If your teen asks you a question that may as well be in another language for all that you can understand it, then deflection is often best. Firstly, don’t be afraid to just come right out and admit that you don’t know something, because this in itself will prove to your teen that we’re all unsure sometimes (an important lesson, we’re sure you’ll agree.) Then, use your own lack of knowledge to bring the problem back around to them, asking a few probing questions about the subject in general until you get back to the matter at hand. As well as helping you to pick up a few pointers that you’ll probably need at some stage in the future, a conversation like this can bring the amazing benefit of helping your teen to talk themselves to a conclusion. It’s been working for therapists for years, after all, and the chances are that your teen already knows way more than they realize. With you there to push them towards that realization, you should find that even your lack of knowledge doesn’t prevent them from settling on a satisfactory answer.
Tip 2 – Research the topic together
If even a few questions from you doesn’t help to shake the honey from the tree of your teen’s knowledge, then you could also simply research the topic together. After all, few things can’t be explained in a YouTube video or a quick Google search these days. Again, this is great news for helping you to better understand the subject in question for future reference, but it can also help your teen to settle on an answer that they didn’t have before. Of course, you might argue that teens don’t need their parents for this kind of activity anymore, and you wouldn’t be altogether wrong. However, as well as helping you to bond with your teenager, going along for the research ride provides them with the support that, often, is all they’re looking for when they ask for help with a question. Not to mention that your likely more relaxed oversight can help them to pick up on things that, if they were researching in a panic, they’d never find otherwise. That’s certainly got to be a more useful way to implement your lack of knowledge than a simple answer of ‘I don’t know, Google it.’
Tip 3 – Do your own digging
Not to get all detective on you, but you may also find it worthwhile to do your own digging, certainly if your child is undertaking a larger project which you know is going to take them a while. After all, you might not understand that topic but, if the undertaking buys you the time, there’s no reason why you can’t educate yourself and provide some pleasantly surprising insights of value down the line. Not to mention that, when you’re researching on your own, you’ll probably be willing to go down paths that your teen might resist, such as calling their teacher for a little added insight. Obviously, you don’t want to go behind your teen’s back with this, but getting proactive with your own research efforts could certainly help you to return to the table with some valuable suggestions that help after all.
Tip 4 – Get other people involved
Just because you don’t have the answer to a homework-based question doesn’t mean that you can’t offer a solution of sorts. Notably, thinking about people you know and their knowledge sets could be a huge help here, allowing you to pass the buck, as it were, but also ensuring that your teen receives a slightly more educated outlook than you can offer on this matter. Turning to your partner is always great in this sense, though obviously, you shouldn’t be afraid to look a little further afield where necessary. If in doubt, think about what your friends or loved ones do for a living or studied during their own college years. Even if it seems like a long shot, the chances are that you’ll know at least one person who can provide some informed, subject-specific help to get your teen over their homework hump at long last.
A final word
Every parent dreads the day that their knowledge falls short of the help their kids need but, as your teenager branches into higher education and specialist subjects, this is going to happen more and more often. The main thing, in this instance, is that you never simply shrug your shoulders and walk away. Rather, it’s vital that a lack of knowledge doesn’t prevent you from offering at least some semblance of an answer, taking any educational pressures off your teen, and proving that, even in the face of adverse challenges, you’re still the wisest person they know.