10 Things Not to Say to the Parent of a Child With a Disability
We know most of the time things aren’t said with bad intentions. It’s hard sometimes to know what’s offensive, what’s not, and the best way to word what you’re trying to say.
That is why I made this list. These are based on real experiences I’ve had:
1. “Are they going to fix him?”
It is incredibly difficult to hear someone ask this about your child. They don’t need to be “fixed.”
2. “He doesn’t look like he has a disability.”
Not all disabilities are visible. Just because you can’t tell a child has a disability or chronic illness, doesn’t mean they don’t have one.
3. “You just have to be strong.”
This was said to me so much during my son’s first surgery and hospital stay any time I would cry or be upset over what my son was going through; I hated it. You can’t expect the mother of a 10-week-old baby to keep it together like everything was fine when her baby was fighting the biggest fight of their life. I felt it was insensitive, like I wasn’t supposed to be upset.
4. “I know how you feel.”
Please do not invalidate our feelings or our child’s condition by comparing it with anything else. Unless you have a child with a disability or medical condition, you don’t know how we feel.
5. “Everything will be OK.”
This also invalidates our feelings about any complications or issues our child is facing. We are aware that things very well may not be OK, so it stings a little to hear this over and over.
6. “What’s wrong with him?”
I can’t stress enough how upsetting hearing this is. There are so many other ways to ask this without sounding insensitive.
7. “My child has been sick before, too.”
Unless your child has the same condition our child does, or some other chronic illness, it’s not the same. Being sick with a cold or the flu isn’t the same as a chronic illness or disability. These things are long term and something our child has to deal with their entire lives.
8. “I don’t know how you do it” or “I could never do that.”
We do it because we love our children. And you most definitely could do it if it were your child. It may seem like you can’t because you don’t know what it’s like, but you would do anything for your child whether they’re healthy or not.
9. “Oh, I read about that, you should do this instead.”
We get that you’re trying to be helpful, but reading an article or two doesn’t make you an expert on our child or their condition. We know what care our child needs, and so does their highly skilled specialist who is caring for them.
10. “At least you’re not in the hospital.”
Yes we are very thankful that we’re not currently in the hospital, but that doesn’t mean that whatever is going on while we’re home isn’t still difficult.
We understand there are no bad intentions if you’ve ever said any of these things. We know it’s hard to find the words to say when you’ve never gone through what we are going through, so you don’t understand.
It’s just tough to hear these comments all the time. It hurts when your child is going through something difficult and these are the things you’re hearing constantly.
Just a simple “I’m here for you” is enough.
Getty image by Sasiistock