In my previous post titled, I Don’t Want Your Pity, I explained that parents of children with special needs don’t want to be pitied. I then shared that we parents would prefer for someone to empathize with us and show compassion.
It’s easy to say, show empathy and show compassion, but others may not understand what that actually looks like. Or how they can extend it to a person.
So today, I included some ways that you can show empathy and compassion toward parents of children with special needs.
1- Learn about the diagnosis of the person with special needs. When family and friends learned of my child’s diagnosis, I always appreciated their interest in knowing about Nate, especially when they took the initiative to seek information. Any one can do the same, as there is a plethora of information available online from organizations to social media groups. There you can learn about the characteristics and life of a person living with a particular diagnosis. Being open to research and learning, shows empathy. That you are willing to understand the life of the child and the parent.
2- Listen to the parents concerns and needs for their child. As I raised Nate, my family and friends were always available for me to share my difficulties and struggles. I loved that I could “vent” and they would listen, give me sound advice, and pray. Everyone wants a listening ear. Some parents may want to share their heart, about the joys and difficulties of caring for their child. Taking time out of your schedule to listen is always appreciated.
3- Provide respite care/childcare. My family and friends helped me tremendously with childcare, especially when I returned to school. Many parents need help with someone caring for their child so that they can take a brief break. If it is not possible to care for the child with special needs, due to their healthcare needs, perhaps providing care to other children in the household, will give the family a little rest or break.
4 – Prepare Meals. Cooking for a family with or without a child with special needs can be challenge. Everyone enjoys an opportunity to have a meal prepared for them, where they don’t have to “slave” in the kitchen. If you are able to do this, please don’t hesitate. If you are unable to provide a meal to the child with special needs due to dietary restrictions, perhaps cooking for other family members would provide help, so the parents can dedicate time to cooking for the child with special needs.
5- Help to Clean or Organize. When caring for children, cleaning and organization can be hard. It can be even more difficult if there is a child with special needs, that require more time and attention. It would be a great gesture to help clean or organize the home, to reduce the parents time away from caring for their child.
6- Giving time for Self-care. Every parent needs a moment to care for themselves. Whether it is to have some alone time, spending time out shopping without children, receiving a massage, or beauty treatment. This can be a time of mental and physical refreshment. If you can provide this service to a parent, I’m sure they would be grateful.
7- Extend an Invitation. Some parents of children with special needs feel alone. Many times we are not included in events, because people assume we are unable to attend, due to our special needs child. I’ve heard it before “Well, I didn’t think you would have time, with your son and all.” Well, one of my friends would invite me, when she had an event at her home. She was adamant that I attend, and even encouraged me to bring my child. Including us in her life made me feel as if I was cared for and loved. Be intentional in this area, by making it a priority to extend an invitation to an event.
So there is my short list of ways to provide and show empathy and compassion to parents of children with special needs.
What are other ways that someone can show empathy and compassion to you and your child with special needs?
Please share in the comments below.