It’s not always easy to know what to say, but sometimes the emphasis should be on knowing what not to say. An offhand comment said without thought can cause other people to feel hurt. With that in mind, here are here things you should never say to parents of babies with disabilities:
- She looks normal
Ouch. By saying she looks normal, you’re making it pretty clear that you don’t think she really is normal. It also sounds like you’re minimizing the struggles this mom faces on a daily basis. Her child may not appear to have additional needs at the first glance, but that doesn’t alter how life-changing the diagnosis is.
- What’s wrong with her?
Nothing is wrong with her. Please, think carefully about the words you use when talking about disability. A disability does not make a person wrong, abnormal or weird. Instead, it makes them different. It’s ok to ask about the diagnosis and what that means, but you should try to be careful about the words you use. It’s nice to feel understood, but it’s not so great to feel judged or pitied.
- Have you tried…
You mean well, of course, but these parents probably don’t need to hear anymore advice right now. They’re probably elbow-deep in advice from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep at night. They spend their days rushing between appointments, speaking to other parents of children with disabilities and looking online for more information. They really don’t need to hear anymore advice about alternative therapies, diet changes or something your cousin’s friend’s neighbour tried.
- I could never do what you do
This one is supposed to be a compliment, but it can actually be pretty hurtful. Parents of children with disabilities probably never imagined that they’d be able to do it all either. They didn’t dream of doling out daily injections, coping with behavioral problems or learning the latest medical jargon to make appointments easier. But they do those things because they have to, and so would you in their shoes. When you tell them you couldn’t, you simply remind them of how different they are and how hard you think they have it.
For balance, here’s one thing you absolutely should say:
- Say hi
Do you know what parents of children with disabilities really want? They want, just like you, for their kids to be accepted and loved. They want their kids to fit in. Sadly, many adults feel awkward when confronted with a child with disabilities. They feel so worried about saying or doing the wrong thing that they instead act as though the child is invisible. Set a good example for your kids and instead say hi and engage with the family. Encourage your child to say hi as well. Teach your child that there’s nothing wrong with being different.
Written by Fiona (@Fiona_Peacock), mother, writer and lover of all things baby related.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a trained medical doctor. Health & Parenting Ltd disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information, which is provided to you on a general information basis only and not as a substitute for personalized medical advice. All contents copyright © Health & Parenting Ltd 2016. All rights reserved.