When your child has a disability, it can often feel that it’s just you and your family against the world.
We aren’t always great at asking for assistance and it can sometimes be hard to actually verbalise or work out exactly what’s needed at any given time. Also, friends and family may want to help out but they simply don’t know what you need, what’s going to help the most or they may simply be worried about getting in the way or causing offence. Here are some practical ideas you could pass on to friends to let them know how they can help take the load off.
Simple gestures like a call, message or email to say hello helps keep the communication open. Your friend or family member may feel like they are burdening others with their problems, so may not instinctively reach out to you. You can show them that you are willing to learn, adjust and try to be beside them as they navigate all their new challenges. It will make such a huge difference to them knowing they are not alone on their journey. Be sure to invite them and their child to events too, even if they decline the invitation. The fact that you remembered them sends a positive message.
Just like any other family, your loved one is most likely happy to have visitors so clear some time in your own schedule and go and see them. Just check in advance when would be a good time to call in! In doing this, you are helping a special needs parent to stay connected to the world, and relieving some of the isolation which can come with having a child with high care needs.
BE OPEN TO LEARNING
Ask questions and show that you are willing to learn about their child’s disorder. This will help you to support the parents more effectively with what they really need. Read about their child’s diagnosis, their symptoms, treatment and what the parents may be experiencing. You may find that your loved ones are then more willing to open up to you and let you into their world.
OFFER TO WATCH THEIR OTHER CHILDREN
Children with additional needs often require most of the attention within a family, with the days and weeks focused around appointments, routines, medical care and other non-negotiables. Any other children in the family learn to adjust but they have needs too. This is where you come in. By offering to watch or spend time with the other children in the family, you are giving these children some special attention, just for them. They and their parents will be most grateful.
HELP WITH HOUSEWORK AND ERRANDS
When you have a child with special needs, simple housework tasks and errands that are usually second nature become much more complicated. Not to mention, pretty low on the list of priorities. A quick trip to the supermarket becomes a time-consuming task or there may be very little energy left at the end of the day for any chores around the house. Offer some help in any way you can.
HELP THEM CELEBRATE
Celebrations bring people together. Make sure you take the time to celebrate and acknowledge the successes of special needs children too, even if they don’t look quite the same as those of your own children, they are hugely significant accomplishments and milestones.
Cooking and food preparation quickly slips to the bottom of the list when challenges occur in a family’s life. And we all know that not having to worry about what’s for dinner helps the day run more smoothly. So showing up with some food, nothing fancy required, will always be appreciated.
Offering a listening ear helps special needs parents to know they are not alone. It shows you are willing to learn, understand and support, and that you are available. That makes a significant difference.