6 Things What to Tell to a Parent With a Special Child
I deeply believe that no one means to offend or hurt special parents in conversation on purpose. If sometimes the atmosphere becomes awkward, or the parents end up offended, that is because of misunderstanding or wrong interpretation of what was said.
If your friend/relative/neighbor became a parent to a special child, know that they are still the same persons, only that they are now in a rather shocking and stressed mood and they need time to process. The best way to help them is to be here for them. That doesn’t mean being sad the way they are, crying, and feeling desperate as they are. That does not help. The only way to help someone is for you to be in a calm place yourself.
And you want to consider before meeting with those persons that some topics are hurtful for them to talk about right now, and some comments may cause them pain.
I already talked about 7 things not to say to a special parent.
So, what is the best thing to say to a special parent?
Basically, anything that sounds supportive, motivating, hopeful, even funny.
Special parents go to a hospital with their children a lot. There are many stressful moments in raising a special child but let’s say that going to a hospital and staying there is on the top of the list of stressful times. The first 2-3 years when Joana and I stayed in the hospital, my phone rang almost nonstop during those days. They were all dear people to me that were worried and wanted to know how we were: our parents, sisters, brothers, close friends, and the rest of the family. I knew that they were worried, and they loved us and wanted to be there for us. But my anxiety and the bad mood would rise at the end of the day because here I am, having the same conversation 20 times a day, answering the same questions what did doctors say, when are we going home, what researches they made, how are the blood results, have the seizures stopped, is she crying now, do they know what caused that…and so on.
When I recognized that having the same phone call all day gives me additional anxiety, above all that is happening, I started to ask myself: in which cases I wouldn’t be feeling like that. And I got it – I told all those dear people I love, and they love me so much and mean no harm in any way, that unless they have a joke for me or some good news about them to tell – to not call me at all. And it worked. From the next day, they only called to tell me jokes or a funny situation that happened to them that day or simply talked about a memory that we had together.
That was a lot more helpful for me than to talk about my stress all day and to keep my focus on that ugly picture of how Joana cries, and they have to do blood tests and EEG that day.
So, what to say to a special parent if your goal is for that parent to feel good and uplifted after talking to you?
1. Your daughter/son is gorgeous.
You can’t make a mistake with that. Everyone wants to hear that their baby is beautiful. Simply because of two facts: a) the parents think that too and b) it is true that every child in the world is gorgeous and cute. Joana has deep blue eyes, and they are beautiful. And almost everyone that sees her says something like, “oh, her eyes are amazing.” And although I already know that and feel the same way, I still feel good because it’s nice to hear someone acknowledging your child.
2. How are you?
Is this a simple question? Not at all. There is a big difference between you asking, “Btw, how are you” but your tone is stressed, and it feels like you have to go or hang up soon. And the full of calmness and sincere interest in your voice, “I want to know, how are you?”. And then be prepared to listen.
As I am writing this, it crosses my mind that this applies to every conversation you have with everyone. Only if you are sincere to yourself, “Do I really want to interact with this person?” will you be involved in a conversation of mutual pleasure, after which you would both grow and feel good. If you just want to be appropriate, so everyone would say that you are nice, but actually, you are not interested in this person, and you really don’t consider as a priority to put that person on your “this person matters to me” list, people would feel that, and the communication between you would not last. And it would be just a waste of time. It’s simple – if you care – ask “how are you” and then listen. If not, don’t even talk to that person. Everyone can find people who are the right fit to be friends, and you don’t have to act if you only feel sorry for them but don’t really care for them.
3. I am here for you.
Again, say this only if you mean it. It means the world to me when my friends and family call me and say – “whenever you want to talk, I am here for you.” Or, “I have 2 hours extra on Saturday, I can stay with Joana, go out end enjoy”. Or “call me when you are in the park. I would love to hang out with you”. These and any other sentences of support are more than welcome.
4. Tell me all the positive things your child has done today.
That’s a beautiful thing to say because it will stimulate the parent to talk about their child’s strengths, their little wins, their smile, something funny that happened, the new sound the child made, and so on. This is important because it would get the parents to focus away from the disabilities and limitations and make them focus on everything positive and good about their child’s progress.
Focus matters a lot. If we are focused only on the negative things, we will notice more and more of them. Opposite, if we put our intention on what’s positive, we will find more and more positiveness that would put us in a great mood, and we would get more and more of that either. What you focus on grows. So, don’t you think it would be the best you can do to be a direct cause of why your friend is uplifted and happy after talking to you?
5. I have a new joke for you, 😉
My favorite. For me, laughter is medicine. I like to laugh, and I always want to hear funny jokes or talk about a funny episode that happened to me or the person I talk with. And neither I nor any parent wants all the conversations to be around our children. Bring on all your jokes and funny staff, and let’s laugh.
6. What is it that you wish for?
Very important question. This goes for all parents, but special parents, especially, often put themselves last. Always thinking about the children and their needs, completely forgetting their personalities. If you ask a special parent, “What is it that you wish for?” and listen, you permit that person to feel like one; you stimulate them to talk about them, their dreams, and their intentions.
This can be very powerful. This can trigger something inside them, some forgotten plan or dream that suddenly from a sparkle can become a burning fire, and they might go for it. Even if it doesn’t do any of that, it would certainly feel nice to them to talk about self, and what they wish for. It’s nice to be heard.
And finally, don’t say anything at all if you don’t mean to listen and you just want to “get it out from your to-do list.” People always notice when you are sincere and when you are not truly involved. You probably were in a situation too when someone asked, “How are you” and the minute you started to answer, they interrupted you with their story or commented about what preoccupies their mind at the moment.
Kindness and compassion are always the right way.