The Best Way to Help a Parent of a Special Needs Child

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One of parenting’s biggest challenges is that it comes with its own set of judgments and unsolicited advice. Nobody does it the same way, so doing it differently can sometimes be taken as a personal condemnation by others. Nothing opens a person up to criticism more than parenting their own child, you know, the one you know best. Add to that the complication of parenting a child with special needs and you open the door to commentary and criticism from everyone from the store clerk to your beloved family. People who don’t know—and people who do—somehow think they can help you fix it. In some cases it’s even insinuated that it’s something you did in your own parenting—that it might be your fault! It’s not!

The thing that often gets missed by these onlookers is that we don’t want to fix our child, they aren’t broken, they are just as perfect as anyone else’s child and we certainly can’t “discipline it out of them.” We just have to parent them differently and we have to learn the skills to help them thrive in their own bodies and brains that work differently, all while living in a world that looks at them differently. If you love someone with a special needs child and you want to help them, then don’t offer uninformed advice. Educate yourself instead.

Parents of these special kids know you’re well-meaning when you ask questions like Why? and What? and How come? And they are grateful for your interest and caring, but when sorting through their own child’s needs, it can be overwhelming to answer everyone’s questions. It’s also not always possible to answer in a way people can understand in a short period of time. Yes, it’s helpful to ask what to do when their child does x, y or z thing, but you know what’s more helpful? Release them from educating yet another person, while they are trying so hard to educate themselves. No, they don’t mind doing it, but it becomes taxing over time. So, in a quiet moment, ask what the best resource is that you could read or watch that would help you understand their child. Then read it. Hell, read it twice. Let them see you reading it if you want. You know what that parent will do? That parent will cry. That parent will hug you and thank you, and if they don’t, they will surely want to.  This releases them from having to eloquently educate every single person that spends time with their child, but mostly it tells them, “I care about this and I love YOU.” Then actually tell them you love them. It will matter.

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If you liked this you may also like:

7 Things You Don’t Know About A Special Needs Parent – M. Lin

Recognizing Sensory Processing Disorder – Janet Lansbury

The Powerful Effect of Respectful Parenting for Children with Special Needs – Janet Lansbury


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