One thing many parents who have children with special needs struggle with is the loss of their current social system. Sometimes the loss is due to the time commitments of care, but too often it is due to their friends simply not knowing how to respond. Here’s how you can help.
Keep Reaching Out
You might not know what to say or do but that’s ok. The most important thing is that your friend knows you are still there. Continue to text, email and call—and don’t take it personally when they don’t respond. It’s not that they don’t want to, they may not have the time or emotional energy. They will respond when they can. Know that your thoughtful words and that you continue to reach out make a positive difference.
Lighten Their Load
Most friends will ask if there is anything that they can do, but your friend may not know how to ask for help. This is something that many of us struggle with in everyday circumstances. Instead of asking a general “What can I do?” get a bit more specific:
- Offer to cook one meal a week for the entire family.
- Stop by to do laundry or housekeeping.
- Offer to babysit to give your friend a few hours off.
- Run errands such as grocery shopping or taking pets to the vet.
- Take some or all of the kids to the movies, invite them over for a sleepover, or take them to and from their extracurricular activities.
Listen And Learn
Learn as much as you can about the medical condition or special needs of your friend’s child. This will make it easier for you to understand the highs and lows your friend shares with you. Be there when your friend needs to vent and when they have news to celebrate.
Get Them Out Of The House—Without The Kids
Finding me time can be a challenge for all parents, but particularly for parents who have a special needs child. With their wick burning at both ends it is essential to find a bit of me time. While scheduling can be tricky as it may always be in flux, plan a monthly outing without the kids. This could be a coffee date, movie, lunch, dinner, spa day, or anything the two of you enjoy doing together. You can even schedule this at home when the kids go to bed but try to get out of the house if you can.
Whatever you do, be there for your friend!