Family and friends can be an integral part of both the parents and the other children’s lives, keeping the family grounded and their help and support is so important.
But what can they do when their children’s or friends’ baby is born with a disability? They may want to help, but they may not be sure how. Here are some tips:
- Give Time: Parents of a child who is blind will agree that there is one thing they never have enough of: TIME! The child with a disability requires so much attention it’s hard for them to get dinner on the table, let alone research therapies or take them to the doctor’s appointments. Family and good friends are perfect babysitters even if all they do is sit with the child while mom makes dinner or cleans the house.
Be Specific: If there are certain things family or friends are good at, such as cooking, let them Offer to make meals for the family. Or if they have the time to drive around town and get some errands done or pick up some groceries, That’s extremely helpful.
- Help with the Other Kids: If there are other kids, this is a wonderful time for others to volunteer their services. They can pick the kids up from school, spend time with them, and have fun. It’ll be helpful to the family and they’ll also be showing the other kids that they haven’t been lost in the shuffle.
Lend an Ear: Sometimes it’s nice to be listened to. Family and good friends should allow the parents of the child with a disability to tell them about what’s bothering them and how they feel. This can be a real relief for them. However, if friends don’t know what to do, that’s not their fault. Parents may feel that they don’t understand what it’s like to be in the position they are in. Friends just want to be supportive, so they call. Repeatedly. They call to check on the mother and her child, they call to see how they’re doing and they call to see if things are any better. But over time this may become more about themselves than about the parents or their child. Others want to help because it will make them feel better about themselves.
- Learn as Much as possible: Family and friends can ask where to find out as much as they can about the child’s diagnosis, if there is one. Try to use the correct terminology and keep up to date on therapies and treatments. The internet is a good place to start, but they can also ask if the parents have anything they’d like them to read.
- Avoid Comparisons: It may be obvious, but it can be hard to let the visually impaired child grow and develop at their own pace. It’s so natural to compare them to their siblings, cousins or friends. Remember, vision is so key to learning that development will be slower, even without added disabilities. Family and friends can help the parents by reminding them that it’s OK to take things one day at a time and that no one is in a race here. We’re all doing our best.
- Express Joy: Learning that a child is blind is sad, but family and friends should try to move past that sadness. The child is beautiful and amazing, and there are so many things that they do which can astound everybody and to be proud of. It can be hard at times, but it’s worthwhile to try to focus on the positive whenever possible and encourage the parents to do the same.
- Laugh: “I think the best gift my father has given me is the gift of laughter. Somehow he is always able to find the hilarity in any situation, and this can make everyone feel just a little better. Sometimes it’s OK to laugh and smile.” Sometimes, just be a friend and talk about ordinary things such as TV programs, music, the latest gossip … and do what you did before the birth of the child with the disability. Parents also need to have some time to relax.
- Respect Differences: Others’ opinion is valid, but it’s not the only one. So many families these days come from mixed religions and backgrounds and it’s important to remember that we all see the world a little differently. Don’t let those differences get in the way of a supportive relationship.
- Let family and friends be Themselves: Family and friends have unique gifts that can’t be replicated. Let them be themselves and find comfort in the fact that they haven’t changed. Read books to the child, play, and have fun. That’s what it’s allabout!