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There are countless articles that tell us what NOT to say, but no one tells us what TO say to a parent with special needs children. We know you want to be supportive and we appreciate you for trying to do it tactfully! How do you offer support without being condescending? How do you express an idea without sounding like you think you know better? A lot of this depends on the individual, but there is one thing you can always ask a special needs parent.
How can I help?
If you ask this question with intention, I can guarantee you will endear yourself to your friend, family member or acquaintance! This question is entirely different from the commonplace, “Let me know if you need anything.”
It is difficult to ask for help. Unless you’ve been living in the trenches of challenging days with me already, I’m not going to call you when I need help. I need someone who isn’t afraid to witness our fear, anxiety, or tears. I need someone who I know will roll up their sleeves and jump into our loud, messy, sometimes overwhelming lives. I need to trust you with my family.
“Let me know if you need anything,” is polite while keeping someone at arm’s length.
“How can I help?” accepts us for who we are and gets into the business of our lives with us.
“How can I help?” reveals that you support us.
“How can I help?” shows that you care for us.
Personally, I’ve never been one for small talk; but since having two children with special needs, I am even less interested in the superficial aspects of relationships. Our life is real and raw. Things change from fun to serious in an instant. The people we now surround ourselves with are ones that will not be scared off by the ever-changing, real and raw.
You know what they say – ain’t nobody got time for that!
When you’re looking for something to say to a parent like me, break through the facade with, “How can I help?” But truly mean it. Because if you don’t? Ain’t nobody got time for that.