Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ways to Serve Parents of Children with Special Needs


I wanted to repost this information because it contains wonderful ideas for helping parents who have a child with special needs.  

Throughout life's challenges, we have had people tell us "give me a call if you need help." I have learned that people either say that to make themselves feel better or they say it because they really don't know what to do.

I saw an article in the Focus on the Families magazine "Discovery Years" February 2009 and thought it was something that I needed to share. I have added a several of my own ideas as well.

Ways to Serve Parents of Children with Special Needs

#1 - Help with the Other Children - This is such a blessing especially when the child has doctor appointments or tests. There are times when siblings in the exam room are not conducive to the situation.

#2 - Give the Parents a Little Fun - Discovery Years suggested sending the parents off on a date. When they return home, surprise them with a clean home, mowed lawn, etc.  Give a care package with a gift certificate to a spa or massage therapist. 

#3 - Volunteer Your Services - "Offer to help when you know the parents might need it, because it is hard to ask for help." Meals are a HUGE blessing as supper time is often the hardest times on these families.  Be sure to offer specific ideas of helping and follow up with your offer.  If you are unsure what help the family could use, give them options by sharing ideas of things you can do.  Sometimes the best thing to do is...just do it.  Just do the dishes.  Just show up with a meal.  Just mow the lawn.  As you begin to help, you will see where the areas of need are.

#4 - Give Them Grace - Understand that these parents' plates are full at times and they are tired exhausted.  Just keeping up with therapy and insurance is a full time job.

#5 - Do Ongoing Chores - Laundry, run errands, go to the grocery store (this can be a nightmare for parents if they have to take a child with special needs with them).   Maybe provide your personal service on a specific day of the week. 

I know a lady who does laundry for a family every Wednesday.  The mom sets the dirty clothes on the front porch.  The lady picks it up, takes it to her house where she washes, dries, and folds each piece.  Then the clean clothes are delivered to the front porch.  (No, this blessed mom isn't me.)

#6 - Listen to Them - Set aside a specific time when the parent can say what's on their heart. Listen. Ask questions. Don't judge.  Unless you have lived it, you will not be able to understand. 

#7 - Baby-sit Regularly - Allow the parent to go to the doctor, grocery store, or just take a nap or shower. It is amazing what a break away from their children will do for these parents.

#8 - Don't ask details if you are just being nosey. If you don't truly care, the parent will recognize this. A person feels violated when they share something so personal and the receiving person just wants to snoop.  Sharing information is personal and if the receiver doesn't handle the details with kindness, the sharing person may feel violated. 

#9 - Don't judge a person's parenting skills off of one incident.  Boy have I learned this one the hard way!  You have no idea the battles that are fought at home.

#10 - Acknowledge when parents are doing a good job. There is nothing more disheartening than when a person comes up to you after watching a positive situation with your children and declares your children as "easy kids."  Or when a person assumes off of one moment that you don't discipline.  Again, you have no idea the battles that may go on at home.

#11 - Call to see how things are going, but understand that sometimes parents just can't talk right then.  Don't take it personal. 

#12 - A little card or email just asking "How is your day going? I'm praying for you" goes a long way! 

#13 - Ask specific things to pray for. Follow up with a note to remind them that you are praying.

#14 -  Strengthen their marriage.  Most people have no idea what kind of strain a special needs child puts on a marriage.  Give the couple several opportunities to have together time.  Encourage them.  Love on them as a couple.

#15 - Encourage, encourage, encourage.  These parents are drained.  They need to hear that you see improvements no matter how small they seem.  They need to hear that they are doing what is right for their child. 

#16 - Love on their children.  As Bubs struggles more and more with social issues, it hurts to see adults gravitate away from him and to our social butterfly children.  You bless me when you love on him...even when he is struggling.

What other ideas can you add?

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