We're going to discuss examples of how to show up and be present for your friend. Before we begin, let's talk about some of the differences between families with neuro-typical versus neuro-divergent children.
As Angela Tyszka educational advocate shares, "Everyone that has kids is busy. They are busy with school, sports, school activities, family activities, etc., but the difference between taking a child to the ball game or to the doctor is the emotional component of the experience. Yes, we are all busy, but it's different. Taking a child to a ball game or to a therapy session or a medical appointment is an emotional experience for the special needs parent. We watch, we notice, we compare and we wonder if our child will ever catch up with their peers. It's not the same."
Special needs parents are often exhausted and overwhelmed and yet they keep going forward until they burn out and they just can't go any more. It's hard for many special needs families to ask for help. So a great way around the dilemma of figuring out how to help or be there for a friend is to think ahead of some ways you can be there for them.
Here are some examples: Periodically, call your friend to stay in touch and see how they are doing. Ask them how they are, if they're ok, and then be quiet. Listen for the creaks in their voice, the stunned gasp of breath as they feel heard.
Tell your friend, "I'm going to the grocery store, is there anything I can pick up for you? I know it's hard for you to go to the store with your child and I'm going, please let me help you out."
When you're in the area, tell your friend, I'm going to be close by, can I pop in and see you? Sometimes it won't be convenient, but your friend will feel loved and cared for, just because you're thinking of them.
If you're close by their house, give them a call and say, "Hey, I'm stopping at Starbucks, or (Fill in the blank) what do you like to drink or what would you like to eat?"
Another example of how you can show up for your friend, “I’d love to get together with you and I know it’s difficult. How about I bring some take-out to your house and we talk, and sit and watch a movie on Netflix? Give me a couple nights that work with you and let me know what food you’d like me to pick up.”
Or another one. “Would you like to go for an early morning or evening walk or exercise?” “I’m making my famous chicken noodle soup this weekend and I’m planning on dropping some off for you and your family. I can come at a certain time or just leave it on the porch – which day/time works best for you?”
If your friend's child has a melt-down or refuses to participate while with you - be there for your friend. Don't expect a child having sensory issues to have the ability to immediately pull it together. When possible, ask for ideas in advance, on how to best support your friend when their child becomes dysregulated. If your friend's child is scheduled for a hospital visit, ask if you can bring the parents some food, or can you help with pick up of any additional children?
A few years ago I broke my ankle and a friend showed up. She came with the fixings for spaghetti and directions for my teens to make spaghetti, along with some lovely flowers and a book. My friend knew that I was hurting and struggling to take care of myself and my family. She didn’t wait for me to figure out what I needed, despite me telling her I was fine....we were fine....she showed up to help and support. I learned a lot from her and realized, it’s a lot easier to ask for forgiveness then to ask for permission.
During the same time-frame, another friend phoned and told me she'd taken the day off work and was available to take me to the doctor and to help get my kids back and forth to their basketball try-out. My friend was a Michigan transplant from another state and this sweet act of kindness cemented our friendship.
Like many people, I have a hard time asking for help. I’m always the person that shows up with a casserole, a card or gives a donation – but when I need something, I try to plan and take care of it all. My big message to myself and other Warrior Moms is one of the best ways to practice self-care is to be open and ask for help when you need it. There are people who will help you if you ask. They can't read our mind and when we continually say we are fine, we've got it, they believe us and they leave us alone. It's ok to ask for help!
Being a good friend, means being there in both the good and the challenging times. Remember, think of how you can help and show up for your friend - empty platitudes to "let me know what you need," will fall on deaf ears and do little to propel your friendship forward. Instead ask the question, "What do you need?" and be ready to suggest one or two things you can do to help.
I'd love to hear from you. Please let me know if you have additional ideas on how to show up for a friend.
One of my BIG self-care items this year was to publish my book, something that has been a buck-list item since I was a little girl. And It's happening! My novel, "UnMasked" will be released on June 13, 2023 and is now available for order on Amazon at: https://a.co/d/fCkRf8z
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