How to support a friend with a disabled child

By admin
25 April 2014

One of the most precious things about friendship between moms is that they also support and love one another’s kids. Moms also take responsibility for one another’s trials and tribulations. But what do you do if your friend has a disabled child and you’re not sure what to do or you’re concerned about giving offence? We give practical advice.

One of the most precious things about friendship between moms is that they also support and love one another’s kids. Moms also take responsibility for one another’s trials and tribulations. But what do you do if your friend has a disabled child and you’re not sure what to do or you’re concerned about giving offence? We give practical advice.

Don’t ask ‘What’s wrong with him/her’

Be careful about the language you use and don’t ask insensitive questions. If you have a good, close friendship, enquire in a sensitive way about the child’s disability. If you’re not close friends you shouldn’t be asking questions about her child, unless she chooses to tell you about it.

Celebrate the birth and special occasions as you would with any other children

Be happy with your friend about the birth of her baby and celebrate it, even if the baby is born with a disability. Use the child’s name, give gifts and treat the birth with the same excitement as you would with any other child. Don’t assume your friend is disappointed or angry about her child.

Offer to help

For mothers of children with special needs, time is often a luxury. Offer to do your friend’s shopping, to cart her kids around or babysit them so she can have time for herself or to spend with her husband.

Give her space to be angry

To have a child with a disability is a challenging and difficult process and you have to give your friend and her husband space to process their feelings. Don’t be resentful if she’s struggling in this regard and don’t pressurise her to be happy all the time. The fact that she and her husband are disappointed doesn’t mean they don’t love their child deeply.

British prime minister David Cameron summarised his experience with his own disabled child as follows, “You mourn the difference between the child you expected to have and the child you got, but eventually you realise the child you got is wonderful.”

Take the trouble to understand

It would mean the world to your friends if you took the trouble to understand their situation. Read books and articles so you’re informed. It shows you’re interested and respect their child.

Hope for the best

Don’t assume the child will never excel. Many disabled children reach great heights. Unless the parents indicate otherwise, accept that the child’s ideals are the same as any other child’s ? they want to go to school, play sport and have a career. If these goals are out of the question, the parents will point it out to you.

Beware:

  • Any reproach or statement suggesting “the mother did something wrong” during the pregnancy or “things she’s done in her life” to get such a child.
  • Medical questions and diagnoses. There are often no clear diagnoses for disabled children.
  • Easy remedies. Laypeople’s opinions about how to handle disabled children or any magic cures you’ve read about are insensitive and can give the parents false hope.
  • Generalisations, such as that disabled children are all loving or all naughty. This deprives your friends’ children of a personality and treats all children with special needs as falling in one and the same category.
  • Remarks about how they at least a have a “normal” child too.

? Mieke Vlok

SOURCES: SPEEDOFDARK-THEBOOK.COM, WOMANSDAY.COM, DCURBANMOM.COM

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