How To Be A Good Friend To A Special Needs Mom
This is the second guest post from Andi Sligh, who blogs at Bringing the Sunshine. She recently published There’s Sunshine Behind the Clouds: Surviving the Early Years as a Special Needs Mom, a free e-book for parents at the beginning of their special needs journey.
Don’t use clichés, no matter how well meaning. When Nathan was born, I heard “God only gives special children to special parents” every day for weeks, and it made me uncomfortable. I knew I was no saint, but I felt pressure to act like one – to never admit disappointment or struggles or failure. That simple, well-intentioned statement was a burden that made me feel isolated and alone. God does give special children to very un-special parents, and some people do get more than they can handle. Even if clichés weren’t hurtful, everyone says them, so they get old quickly. After Nathan was born, my OB-GYN came into my room to see me. My pregnancy had been high-risk with a few hiccups along the way, and my doctor had treated me as if it were his life’s work to get my baby and me across the finish line safe and healthy. He sat down at the end of the bed and with a smile said, “Doggone it!” That simple action spoke to me in a way that none of the clichés did—he acknowledged that things hadn’t turned out like we expected, but that it was a small setback, not a tragedy.
Ask the mom how she’s feeling and what you can do to help. Sometimes the shock of the diagnosis makes it hard to manage the simplest things, like dinner. Some children are so medically fragile that their care consumes the parents’ time. Offer to babysit her other children, bring meals, do laundry or make update calls to her friends and family for her. Listen when she talks, and hold her hands when she cries. I remember every person who brought us a meal in the early days, and I have a special fondness in my heart for my husband’s coworker who brought me a laptop in the hospital so that I could write.
Don’t indicate in any way that the child is replaceable or “less than” any other child. Even if a friend is devastated, she doesn’t want to hear “you can try again” or be reminded that she already has X number of healthy children. This child is where her focus is, and she loves and values him for his own sake. Sarah Kate was born premature and when she was less than two weeks old, with no end to her NICU stay in sight, my husband and I were talking with two family members and expressing our frustration about our bad luck—we had already lost two children. One of them piped up and told us that we shouldn’t give up on having another child, and it cut us both to the core. Our tiny baby was struggling for survival, and the thought of other future children seemed disrespectful and cold.
Always take your cues from the mom. She may go through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression before she reaches acceptance. Support her grief, celebrate her child, and encourage her at each step along the way. If you can be the person who recognizes her needs and responds without hesitation, you’ll be her foxhole friend for life.
Check out Andi’s previous post: What To Expect Of Friends When You’re A Special Needs MomAdd a Comment
Tags: health, Parenting, parenting advice, parenting style, Special needs | Categories: Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Children With Special Needs, Disability, Down Syndrome, Must Read, SPD, Special Needs, To The Max