Caregiving parents need friends. As guest blogger and caregiving mom Shelly Roberts knows, parents raising children affected by disability need friends willing to foster those friendships in unique ways. See if you agree with what Shelly has to say.
Caregiving parents need friends willing to reach out to us. Sometimes we struggle to reach out, not because we don’t want to, but because we’re just not sure how to communicate what would be helpful. I’ve been on the disability journey for several years and have found there are three main things that can make a world of difference to families.
#1: SHOW UP
A life affected by disability can feel really lonely. You can be a reminder that your friend isn’t alone. It’s okay if you don’t know what to say. Chances are you can’t really change your friend’s circumstances. Just reminding parents they aren’t facing circumstances alone will mean so much. Showing up might be a visit in person during a long hospital stay. Walking in with your friend’s favorite treat she can’t buy where she’s staying is a bonus. Showing up might also be a text about something funny (laughter is some of the very best medicine) or a scripture to cling to.
#2: SEND HELP
Your friend faces exhaustion daily. While there are things you probably can’t do for them, there are also many you can do. Sending a gift card for pizza will mean parents can focus on their family that evening instead of juggling one more thing. Buying a tank or two of gas for can be a huge load-lifter for parents who travel many miles for appointments. Offering to be taxi for a family member is a practical help for parents who can’t leave the house with a fragile child.
Hint: if you ask caregiving friends what they need, they will likely struggle to tell you. Offering specific ideas is more helpful. One of my favorites is when a friend calls from the grocery store and asks what items they can drop off to me on their way home.
#3: STAY CONNECTED
Connectedness might look a little different in various seasons. Your friend’s church attendance may be slim during flu season, but don’t forget them. Send a text and ask how their week is going. Ask to stop in for a quick visit over coffee and take some chocolate! Ask how you can pray for your friend. I guarantee you, the family will be deeply encouraged by your efforts. As children get older, connection might take creativity, especially if it’s difficult for your friend to visit your home with a child in a wheelchair.
Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity for connecting to present itself. Keep things simple. Your friends don’t need your extravagance. They need your sincerity. Jesus modeled so beautifully how to be a friend and meet the needs of others.
“Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
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