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I've had an extremely limited life and a broken childhood. At my late 30s, I'm now finally doing things/learning stuff that people did in their teens. Almost everyone else around me has a hell of a lot more experience in their lives.

There's a close relative who's asked me to guide his grandson for X (who's younger than I). I think he's expecting me to advice him on some basic life stuff. I can't deny this request because in my 30s, and I'm expected to know enough about life to guide a youngster.

However, I don't think I've got any advice apart from "take care, work hard, adjust to the new place, make new friends, don't get disheartened". These are all pretty generic advice and none of these is going to be of use to anyone. Besides, I feel that he's more experienced than I.

How do you communicate to your nephew when you're expected to give him advice but you don't really have anything to say?

Edit: Added some more details.

I cannot just tell my inlaws that I don't have any advice to offer, or that I cannot guide him. They're old, traditional and this is something that is culturally expected.

closed as unclear what you're asking by BKlassen, Anilla, sphennings, Meg, ElizB Feb 28 at 16:33

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  • Does your close relative expect you to know better than your nephew, or is there a chance your close relative knows you're struggling and thinks the both of you could learn something from this experience? – Caroline Feb 21 at 14:19
  • I'm not sure I understand your question. What do you want to communicate to whom? Do you want to tell your relative that you don't have any advice to give? Do you want to tell your cousin that you probably don't know better than him? And what is preventing you from just saying what you want to say? What are you afraid of? – Ælis Feb 21 at 14:29
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    What's "X" in this case? It's hard to understand the situations without knowing what your relative wants you to teach him about. – Erik Feb 21 at 14:40
  • Any reason you simply said to your "close relative" that you are not the right person for this? – XtremeBaumer Feb 21 at 15:02
  • @Erik He's migrating to another country. I've never been outside my country and I don't have any advice to give him. – Mugen Feb 21 at 15:06
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So, the problem is that you feel compelled to say something helpful to him, but don't feel you have anything to say.

The thing that stands out to me in your question is that you say you don't want to give him "general advice", or platitudes because they are "no use" to anyone. And you are absolutely right. That is a very wise observation for somebody who claims to have no life experience!

It sounds to me that you might be a "late starter" in life - that is you may not feel you experienced as many things in your youth as some other people - but that does not mean that you have learned nothing. Experience is amassed through a combination of both good and bad experiences and through the results of both good and bad decisions. You don't need to expound on your "broken childhood" but the fact that you understand and acknowledge that your past may have been different shows that you have progressed and learned at least some important things along the way. Basically, I think you are being too hard on yourself and you can probably do a better job of helping your nephew than you imagine. If you know or think that something about your past or upbringing was wrong then you must have an idea of what it should have been like, so advise based on that.

You don't state whether this request is for one single talk or if they expect you to "mentor" him over a period of time. In either case, agree to meet and talk to your nephew. Perhaps say:

I want to help you the best that I can. I may not have had all the same experiences and opportunities that you have but I have learned a few things and I can share those with you.

Don't just launch into a lecture though - ask him questions about himself. His likes, his goals etc. To help the way you are being expected to you need him to open up and trust you. The advice you give then does not have to be random - you can respond to the things he tells you.

Quality advice has usually been put to the test and can demonstrate an outcome. If you did something and it turned out good, say what you did and how it turned out for you. If something you did turned out to be a bad choice, or if you missed out on something then state why he should take full advantage of it if he has the chance you didn't.

If you are expected to speak with him on an ongoing basis then talk about the things he has done, whether he followed your advice or not, and how things turned out. Ask him how he might do things differently. If you don't feel you have the knowledge to guide him you can still act as a sounding board and help him to figure out his own way of doing things by examining his actions and the outcomes.

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    This is a beautiful, wholesome answer! I love it. Thanks for taking time to put together all these thoughts. It fills me up somehow. I'm going to put a reminder to read this every week a couple of times. Thanks for replying! :) – Mugen Feb 22 at 4:51

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