What do you say to a friend who has a new baby with a disability?
When you have a child with special needs, you can feel isolated and alone. When a child looks, acts, and sounds different from other children, some people shy away from reaching out. People aren’t sure how to act of what to say. ( p. 130 Helping a Neighbor in Crisis)
So, Shannon, you question is an important one: What do you say to a friend who has a new baby with a disability?
My first response is the old adage which says, “actions speak louder than words.” Of paramount importance is that your friend feels your love and support. Hold the baby.
*As one mother said, “Hold our baby. Holding the baby says, “This handicap is not a barrier. I accept this special little person.” You can even say this out loud to the baby and to the parent(s), “This handicap is not a barrier. I accept this special little person. I want to be a part of this baby’s life.”
*We enormously need support and encouragement. The most helpful expression communicates, “You are doing a great job. This is not easy, and we see that. How can we be helpful?” People tend to say, “Let me know if you need anything,” but a better question that will lead to giving real help is, “What do you need right now?”
Krista Mason is the mother of an autistic child and she says that one morning when she was journaling and feeling very heavy about her son, Ben’s hope for the future, “the Lord brought to her mind, Jeremiah 29:11. I wrote that verse in my journal inserting Ben’s name. So that verse said, ” For I know the plans I have for you Benjamin,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Perhaps you could say aloud, in the presence of the friend, while holding the baby this verse and insert the baby’s name. The Lord declares: “I know the plans I have for you ________plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
AND if it feels natural to you, you could also hold your friends hand or gently hold their face and say Jeremiah 29:11 to them. “The Lord declares to you, ‘I know the plans I have for your child, ________plans to prosper him or her and to give him/her a future’.”
Other ideas about what to say:
- Sara the mother who shared with us earlier in the week advises, “Tell us that our baby is beautiful.” Point out beautiful features, like his big brown eyes and black hair.”
from Helping a Neighbor in Crisis, Lampman:
- “You have a precious child.”
- “This is not an easy time for you, but I am here for you and your baby.”
- “I know just how you feel.”
- “How did this happen?”
- “Do you have other people in your family with this problem?”
- “You must be very special people for God to have sent you such a child to love.”
As I said at the beginning, actions speak louder than words. So, you are showing that you care when you:
- Pray for the family. Parents with a special needs child need continuing patience and wisdom. Tell them that you are continuing to pray for them and then do it!
- Offer to baby-sit.
- Offer to provide transportation for the other children to activities, etc.
- Offer to be an emergency stand-by person for those times when the “unexpected” happens–a child gets sick at school and needs to be picked up or the mom is ill and needs some help.
- Your friend may need someone to talk to who really listens and cares.
- See 109 Ways to Say “I Care.” in the handbook, The Compassionate Congregation, pages 251-262.
Actions speaks louder than words. God bless.
If you have a caregiving question you’d like answered ASK KAREN.