Last week we talked about how to be a friend when your friend has a special needs child. This week, I want to turn the table and encourage all of us who have friends who don’t share our same experiences. Friends or family who may not understand our child’s behavior, beeping machines, medical terminology, or crazy schedules. Grab yourself your favorite beverage and let’s talk about, how to be a friend when your friend doesn’t have a child with special needs.
How to be a friend when your friend doesn’t have a child with special needs.
First, let’s review a few essential elements from last week’s post.
- Friendship etiquette is necessary no matter how old or how diverse our lives might be.
- Friendships have challenges.
- Friendships add value to our lives.
This week, I have three areas where we can give some extra attention to enrich our friendships. So, let’s get started.
We need to take the lead in creating healthy, open, communication between our friends. Don’t wait for there to be a problem. Discuss views, share experiences, and do it with grace. Often, I hear women with special needs children talk about how they “educate” others about their challenges, but in reality, we need less educating and more communicating. You see educating is one-sided. It’s like we have all the answers.
Let’s face it, we see and experience struggles of doing the simplest tasks. We can see problems that other people just don’t even think about because they don’t need something to be fixed. If we can’t talk about these experiences in a way that inspires change; then we’re just going to keep being frustrated. Honestly, none of us want to have a friendship that is constantly “educating” us. Friendships, like that, eventually lead to isolation. Wouldn’t we prefer a friendship of collaboration that merged two different experiences to make it better for everyone?
Here are a few questions you can use to get started talking. Remember to meet your friend where they are. Don’t listen with a critical ear, but with grace.
- What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now?
- You’ve often supported me, how can I be a support to you?
- Is there something specific I could be praying about for you?
Your friend needs to know it’s safe to celebrate their child’s success with you and discuss their struggles. They need support in their parenting, just like we need help in ours. Friendship etiquette is critical. Many times we can forget that while we’re happy to celebrate our friend’s success, it can make our friends feel awkward.
We can forget that some of our friends have had to process their own level of grief and sorrow for our child’s challenges. They may feel guilty that their child is passing our child up in specific areas. Maybe they worry about participating in activities our child won’t be able to do. This is why communication in our friendships is so important. We need to be able to reassure our friend that we want to celebrate with them just like they have celebrated, and at times, mourned with us. Healthy friendships are never one-sided.
Friendship should be about celebration make sure you’re sharing the victories and the laughter.
- What went well for you and your family this week?
- What’s the funniest experience you’ve had this week?
- Set aside time to scrapbook special moments together.
It’s vital that we create an environment where everyone can thrive. Sometimes this isn’t easy to do. I remember my daughter, trying to plan a birthday party for Emmy where Danny would feel comfortable. She was looking for party ideas for children in Danny’s situation. Bekah got online and did research, spent time on Pinterest and still called me completely frustrated. “Mom, I’m so disappointed by the lack of party ideas for children in a wheelchair with sensory issues.”
Friends, we have a beautiful opportunity to create a better world for everyone if we cultivate friendships built on healthy communication, celebration and collaboration.
- Plan a party together where all the needs of each person attending are taken into consideration.
- Work together, within, your community to create environments that welcome all families and children.
- Together, create a menu of snack ideas that work for the needs of both families.
I know it’s not easy, there are many times we don’t have the energy to finish our basic daily routines. It gets frustrating when you’re trying to build healthy relationships with people in your community and you don’t feel that you’re very successful.
Take your time. Keep trying. It’s going to be worth all the effort, I promise.
Until our next chat,
Mrs. Joseph Wood