Parenting a sick child is tough. It takes a toll on the whole family. Everyone’s life changes. Everyday tasks become mountains that families are sure they will not overcome. Work is an almost impossible feat and many parents find it hard to concentrate on even the simplest task. Relationships between parents can sometimes be pushed to the brink of destruction. The unimaginable stress of dealing with an illness can break even the most solid marriages.
Peripheral relationships sometimes suffer as well. Well-meaning friends and coworkers offer unsolicited advice in the spirit of trying to provide comfort. Unfortunately, these words of advice can sometimes make things worse. In fact, sometimes unsolicited advice can come across as downright silly. And infuriating. And insulting.
So, if a family in your circle is afflicted with the unfortunate diagnosis of illness please think twice before offering advice. Here are some helpful things to say to parents with ill children as well as statements better kept to yourself:
“What can I do for you?”
You would be surprised how many times parents would actually answer someone with a specific request had they been asked this question.
“I am thinking of you and your family.”
This simple gesture lets the person know that they are in your thoughts and is so much more meaningful than asking how they are “holding up.”
“I am here to listen if you need to talk.”
There are very few people to whom parents bare their souls during that period but rest assured they are the people that say this as opposed to “Do you need anything?”
Don’t Be Ignorant, don’t say;
“I know what you are going through.”
You may think this is helpful but unless you have a child with an illness you do not, in fact, have any idea what families are going through at the moment. If you are tempted to say this to someone please DON’T!
Believe me, no one is more of an expert on their child’s condition than his or her parents. Please respect the treatment options they have chosen and know that they trust their health care professionals.
This is a short list of things to say and not to say if someone you know has a child with an illness. The situation is probably one of the most stressful things families ever have to deal with in their lives. It never helps to make it worse with insensitive comments; however well-intentioned they may be.
Be there to provide a listening ear or support in whatever way you are able. Sometimes, parents don’t want you to say anything. Sometimes, they just want you to listen or talk about anything else even if it just for a short respite. Indulge them. Sometimes, they may need you to give them some space and some time out. They will thank you for it in the long run.
What’s your take on this? I would love to hear in the comments below. Don’t forget to share with loved ones.
Something extra: Anytime you have a sick friend and you don’t know what to say, read this for great ideas. Also, if you happen to know someone who is not doing so well, someone who may be depressed, you could read this.