31 for 21 & Wisdom Wednesday:
Having a child with special needs requires support. It doesn't matter if the child has Down syndrome, autism, or a developmental delay, these parents need support. Even if they say they don't, they do.
It is important for close friends and families to learn how to support these families. Yes, there is a wrong way to support someone. People that are super critical or negative can provide bad support. On the flip side, someone who talks about their wonderful life and their super smart kids can be a bad source of support too.
So these are some general guidelines for friends (and families) of the parents whose child has special needs:
-If a baby is born with Down syndrome, be positive. Say congratulations. Don't cry! Cry in private if you need to, but not in front of your friend. Acknowledge that this may be difficult and different than they pictured, but they can do it.
-After some one's child is diagnosed, parents may go through a "grieving" process. This looks different for everyone but some people withdraw and avoid social situations. Please seek out these parents in this time. If they won't answer calls, then text or email. Let them know you care and you are there whenever they need you.
-Read up on the diagnosis. Ask questions if you don't understand something. Don't make assumptions. Don't say things like: "It's probably mild anyway." Down playing whatever is wrong won't help. Unless you are a doctor or a professional with a degree in this area, then you probably don't know what you are talking about.
-Talk about your life and your kids, but be sensitive to what your friend is going through. Don't go on and on about your child's fantastic sports achievements and straight A's and how they are so advanced in all that they do. You can talk about these things, but if it's all your talking about, you're probably upsetting your friend. Just mention things with some sensitivity.
-Ask if they need help. Offer to bring a meal if they are having a rough week. Offer to babysit. Offer to do anything that will help. If they don't take you up on it, offer again. Sometimes people have to learn to accept help.
-Listen to their problems. I can't stress listening enough. Sometimes these parents need to vent, talk, cry, and complain. They need someone who will simply listen. Be positive during these interactions. Give encouragement. Acknowledge that their feelings are justified.
-Don't give explanations for things the parents don't want explained. For example, early on people often tried to explain to me why I had a baby with Down syndrome. I never asked "Why did this happen to me?" in a conversation but people felt they needed to give me their explanation of "why bad things happen to good people."
I heard it all: God has to make so many people with special needs. God chose us because we were special. God did this because we sinned. I heard it from every angle!
Whatever your beliefs are on why something happened to the child, please keep them to yourself!! Unless your friend is asking for your explanation, don't give it. People's explanations confused me. It actually put up a separation between me and God in my prayer life for awhile because people gave me such awful explanations. In all your explaining, consider if what you are about to say will hurt or help their relationship with God.
-Keep your friend's child in mind while planning outings. If the child can't sit still in a restaurant, then McDonald's is a better choice than a fancier place. If the child has fears or sensitivities, please keep that in mind. If your friend can't make something you have planned due to the child's special needs, please try not to be offended. There have been many times we have had to skip an event due to Jaycee's weakened immune system or her inability to tolerate a particular situation.
Hope these help!