Being the mom of two kids who struggle with OCD and one who also has ADHD, I’ve been on the receiving end of some well-intentioned comments that missed the mark. I am going to give the benefit of the doubt that most people do want to be helpful. They simply come at it with some incomplete or inaccurate information. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about what it is that moms like me wish their friends knew about her situation. I came up with a few things.
- When your friend is in the middle of a crisis, this is not the right time to heap shame on her. This sounds obvious, doesn’t it? I thought so too. But, I’ve been on the receiving end of some advice wrapped in a shame grenade that cut deeply. If your friend is struggling with her kids, this is the time to ask how you can help. It’s also not the time to mention that you suggested they read a book about parenting a year ago and you are really disgusted with them for not reading it. A few days ago, I had a medical professional (not a mental health professional, thankfully) suggest that perhaps my children were simply copying behaviors they might have seen from me. While that is something that can happen, in my case, with children who struggle with hoarding and intrusive thoughts, I can promise you they didn’t learn that from their mom. He gave that “advice” from a place of incomplete information about the situation. That’s what happens a lot when outside observers offer their opinions. It doesn’t matter if you sincerely believe that mom did something wrong, it’s not helpful. Do you want to be an encourager or do you want to make a point?
- Understand that your friend is tired. When you have a child who has some big struggles, it can be all-encompassing. A lot of moms don’t get a break from them. It’s not an 8-hour job they can leave at the office at the end of the day. I asked for some input from friends regarding what they wish their friends knew about dealing with kids that have different challenges and one noted how hard it is to always have to wear your game face. In the middle of dealing with a child whose emotions are all over the place, the mom is supposed to keep calm and cool even when, on the inside, she is scared, anxious, unsure and frustrated.
- They are a little gun-shy with what and how much to share. She’s afraid people will interpret the fact that she shares about the hard days as an indication that she doesn’t enjoy being a parent or love her kids. She doesn’t want to share too much, but she isn’t sure how to find the supportive community she needs if she stays quiet. It’s a tricky balance to walk.
I know there are things I’ve missed. If you parent children with special needs, what would you put on this list?