The challenges of life ebb and flow for most of us. Seasons of extreme stress are often followed by periods of renewal. If you’ve been on that roller coaster, you probably have vivid memories of both the highs and the lows of life. I certainly do. I remember wondering if I would make it through one more day when feeling crushed under an emotional burden, and recall the incredible sense of gratitude for the seasons when God allowed a time of refreshing.
For parents of special needs children, that recovery time often doesn’t come. Although I haven’t been entrusted with a special needs child, I’ve observed with wonder and admiration the parents who do carry that privilege and responsibility day after day.
And I’ve realized that most of us have no clue. We don’t understand what it’s like to hope and pray and wait and wait some more for the smallest glimmer of progress. To dream of the day when your child might be able to say your name, or sit up on their own. We often complain about annoyances like having to “baby-proof” a house when our child starts to crawl. Many parents of special needs children would be jubilant to have that opportunity. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Do you have friends with special needs children? Do you feel helpless, not knowing how to best provide love and encouragement? Do you avoid doing or saying anything for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing? I am guilty as charged.
Recently, I asked a dear friend to share some ideas that provide meaningful encouragement to her as the mother of a beautiful, special needs son. I share them with you in hopes that you’ll reach out to a special needs parent you know who might be emotionally dehydrated:
Offer to bring your children over to their home for a play date.
Come over and fold clothes or give the mother time to take a nap.
Talk to the special needs child, not just about them.
Learn to ask better questions. Instead of just saying “How’s John?,” ask the mother something she is excited or encouraged about with the child’s progress. Also ask what’s been challenging. And really listen to her answers!
Write an affirming and unexpected note to the mother. Pulling something like that out of the mailbox on a hard day could provide her with great encouragement.
Don’t complain about seemingly normal things like potty training. Remember that the milestones you take for granted are progress points they long for.
Take note of specific prayer requests and then really pray! Put a note on your calendar to follow-up with the mom.
Parents of special needs children need to know they’re not alone or forgotten. Small, loving acts on our part can provide sweet refreshing to weary souls. Let’s reach out in love to these unsung heroes!