How To Support A Special Needs Parents
Nothing can prepare you for parenting and it’s mostly about learning on the job. All parents could do with some help. And for parents of children with special needs, the challenges and demands of parenting are magnified . A little help can go a long way. As a family member, neighbour or friend, you might want to help and not know how to. So here are some practical ways, you can be there for them.
1. Offer your time
You can offer to watch their child for an hour so they get a break, pick up groceries for them, run their errands, take their other kids to their cricket game or bring them over a home-cooked meal when you can.
2. Avoid pity
It isn’t helpful. In fact, it can only magnify their feelings of alienation, disappointment or frustration.
3. Be supportive
Parents of children with special needs can feel overwhelmed, unsure if they are doing enough or the right thing. Tell them they are doing a great job, celebrate the little victories and progress with them and spread cheer instead of dwelling on what could have been different.
4. Don’t offer unsolicited advice
"Have you tried this therapy?"" Maybe you should try a gluten-free diet" Whatever you’ve heard of, they’ve probably researched it already. If you feel there’s genuine information that could help them, ask them questions instead of assuming their ignorance. “ I read something that I thought you would find helpful, can I email it to you?
5. Educate yourself about their child’s disorder
This way you can understand and support them better. Often, parents of special needs children avoid gatherings or events, worried about the stares and judgement of other people. You can be more empathetic and welcoming when you understand their child’s unique needs or behaviours.
6. Offer to look after their other children
Many families with special needs kids also have typical children, who may not get priority or attention at all times. You can help do that, by taking them out for a treat, driving them to their game, carpooling for school drop-offs, getting them a little gift and giving them plenty of attention too.
7. Be a good listener
You may not be able to help in other ways, but you can lend a listening ear. Parents of children with special needs go through many emotions and challenges and sometimes just need someone to patiently listen to their anxieties without judgement. “ Hope you’re doing okay, I’m here for you, what can I help with?"
8. Help monetarily
There are a lot of financial implications to caring for a child with special needs and while you don’t need to be writing big cheques, you can pick up the bill once in a while, for a meal outside or a cab ride.
9. Advocate inclusion
It can mean the world to them and their child. If you plan a party, include a game their child with special needs can play or a snack that’s compatible with their dietary needs. When you’re out at the park, check on their child to see if they need help getting on the swing or slide.
10. Be there for them
You may not always know the right things to say or how to help but by just showing up, spending some time with them to take their minds off things, accompanying them to a doctor’s appointment so they don’t have to do it alone or reassuring them about what a great job they’re doing, you are being more helpful than you realise.
It does take a village to raise a child, so when you see a parent that needs help, some more than others, be that person who can do the little things for them that will make all the difference. We can’t help everyone all the time, but we can surely help one parent, one thing at a time.
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