Whether your friend is a first time parent, a parent with a child with special needs, and adoptive parent, or a single parent or LGBT parent, each situation–while blissful!–has its own challenges.
Basic Parent Stuff
Your new parent friend is a MESS. Does he or she look cleaned up and sanguine? It’s an ACT. In reality:
- She is EXHAUSTED
- She is lonely
- She is scatter-brained and totally unreliable
- She might be depressed
And for the co-parent:
- Much of the above AND
- Humiliated by role as “fetch-it” boy or girl
- Scared for not bonding in the same way
“My gracious mother-in-law always asked if I wanted her advice before giving me any.”
- If you’re best friends, organize a meal drop off, even if there’s take out in the neighborhood, and if you’re somewhat pals, make sure you get on the drop off list.
- Chores are great. LAUNDRY. LAUNDRY!!
- Offer to hold the baby. But wash your hands first. It may feel like overkill but for many new moms, it’s really important. Assume that’s how they feel unless they say otherwise.
NO, NO, NO!!
- Avoid advice unless asked for. Mother in-laws- read this twice.
- Don’t overdo a visit- short and sweet.
- Remember, if there’s a Significant Other to include them in the conversation too!
“You don’t want a person in pain to feel obligated by your overtures, just supported by them.”
Long note for parents of children with special needs
Finding out your child has special needs is hard. And yes, as Andrew Solomon so eloquently asks, how is it that many families “have ended up grateful for experiences they would have done anything to avoid”? It is hard, but parents love their children, and so you as someone who cares for a parent may be very confused about how to feel about their child’s special needs diagnosis.
When parents worry about their kid’s special needs, they have the right to worry. When parents of children with special needs are tired, they are really tired. And they can become isolated.
- Ask about a child’s condition rather than infer you know what it is.
- When a parent expresses worry about their kid, just listen. Really.
- Realize parents with special needs children need some accommodations. Be alert to where this parent is most comfortable with their kid.
NO, NO, NO!!
- If you’re not an informed expert, don’t say not to worry or “at least….” Don’t try and make a parent feel better by comparing them with yours or other kids. Comparisons suck.
- Don’t assume a parent who isn’t hanging out just wants all that alone time. Figure out a way to make it happen.
Special note for adoption, LGBTQ and single moms
We can’t adequately cover this topic here, but more is covered in the “from the web” links below.
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