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Young couple look lovingly at their newborn

Unsolicited Advice

One of my closest friends had a baby last month, and I was very excited to have him join me on the fatherhood journey. Early one morning a few days after the birth, he sent me a message that he and his wife had been up all night with their newborn. Immediately, I felt compelled to provide him an exhaustive list of suggestions on how to help their child sleep longer. I refrained from sending the whole list to him, but I did let a couple recommendations seep through. After my conversation with him, my wife and I spoke about how easy it is to offer parenthood advice to others, even when they aren’t seeking it.

In the counseling field, despite popular belief, we are discouraged from offering advice to our clients. Our job isn’t to provide a quick fix or tell clients what to do. Our main goal is to help clients process their experiences and guide them to a solution that improves their overall wellness. I try to take this approach with friends and family members as well. I try to remember that when people reach out, they are not always seeking my input. Sometimes, they only want to vent, and as a counselor, I know the power of providing a listening ear.

So, what makes us so quick to offer advice to others? When it comes to giving suggestions to new parents, there is no ill intent. Because we care for that person, we hope to make their challenges easier by volunteering what we’ve learned along the way. We may be trying to shield them from unforeseen struggles, or we may have been through their situation and want to save them from the arduous process of figuring out the solution on their own.

But sometimes, offering unwarranted advice can ruin the experience for others. Along my parenthood journey, I’ve had plenty of surprises – some good and some bad. Trust me, there are a number of things that I wish I’d known beforehand. But there are also many fatherhood lessons that I’m glad I learned on my own without spoilers. Though it may have been challenging at the time, experiencing and conquering them helped make me a better father and husband.

Before giving advice to others, ask yourself, did they ask for advice or are they just venting? We’d all like to help those who are close to us, but simply listening about that person’s journey can be more effective than you think.

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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the founder of Mylemarks, an online company that develops social-emotional resources to use with kids and teens. Through that company, he creates content such as digital downloads, workbooks, and children’s books. He’s an adjunct professor in the Human Services department at Old Dominion University, and serves as the Fatherhood Consultant for CHKD’s Dads in Action program. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and listening to music.