Your friend has a sick child. In fact, it’s been going on for months with countless doctors appointments, emergency room visits and hospital stays. Of course you want to offer help but how do you go about it?
The past two years, I’ve had countless conversations with parents that have chronically ill kids about this topic- most of them in waiting rooms as we visit while killing time. While all of us are different, there are some common themes that pop up over and over. Reaching out to a friend that has a sick child should be easy but lots of times it’s not. People don’t know where to start. They don’t know what to say. And, sometimes they just go about it the wrong way so I thought it time to blog about this touchy topic. Here’ are things you shouldn’t do when your friend has a sick child.
Don’t try to diagnose them– Because medicine isn’t an exact science, it can take time to get a diagnosis and sometimes the road can be complicated. Just this week I spoke with a mother who’s child was in the ER five times for pain in her right side. Everyone was certain it was appendicitis- it was a tumor on her spine. Trying to figure out what’s wrong with your child is stressful. Fielding potential diagnoses from friends is as well.
Don’t forget to research– If you’re going to offer medical advice, be sure to research it first so it at least makes sense. Everyone wants to help. Parents of sick kids are bombarded with things to read from doctors, articles from friends and their own research. Save your friend some time by recommending something that you’ve given careful thought.
Don’t sell them– When my daughter was first diagnosed with migraines, many of my friends in direct sales reached out to me with their supplement that would cure the problem. Yes, many of them cared but like other families with a chronic illness, we’d tried just about everything. Honestly, you can tell when someone just wants to sell you something and it’s pretty clear when you have a friend that cares, does a lot of research to see what might work and then presents it as a possibility.
Don’t assume anything– Just because someone has a sick child doesn’t mean their too busy for company or don’t want to entertain. Last year, in order to celebrate the holidays with my friends, I had to have the event at my home otherwise I couldn’t go. People thought it would help to have it somewhere else since we had just been in the hospital. Ask and let the parent tell you what they can and can’t do.
Don’t rely on social media as your sole method to stay in touch– Many parents of chronically ill children are stuck at home so they spend time on social media to stay in touch. Often, the only time they leave home is for doctor’s appointments. You, however, can leave your home. Take the time to visit even if it’s just for short while.
Don’t assume that their kids can do all the things that yours can– Some illnesses are silent– you can’t see them, yet they’re still there. Those kids sometimes appear healthy so it’s easy to assume that they can do all the things that your kids can because they seem well. Unfortunately, they’re not. Be understanding and explain to your kids why they can’t spend the night, dance etc. so they understand.
Don’t always offer food- Last week, I spoke with a mom who has a freezer full of lasagna from their last hospital stay. While we all appreciate food, sometimes it’s not needed. Offer to help with laundry, run errands or help clean the house. There’s nothing worse than coming home from the hospital to a mountain of laundry.
Don’t ask “how are you feeling?”– Last week a good friend said to Rosie, “It’s so good to see you.” Then she said, “I’d ask you how you feel, but I’m sure you get tired of that.” Yes, yes she does. Know why? Some people really care. Others are just asking it like “how’s the weather?” and she knows it. She also knows they don’t really want to hear that she doesn’t feel well all the time.
Don’t stop inviting them to events– Just because they can’t attend events for a couple of months, doesn’t mean things change. Kids go into remission, have days when they feel great and if not, we can get help. Things change all the time so be sure to extend an invitation.
Don’t forget the reason the phone was created– Parents have good days and bad days just like their kids. I’ll be honest, there are days that I don’t want to talk on the phone. Then there are days when I’m dying to hear a human voice. I’ve heard other parents say that many of their friends just stop calling after a while. Don’t.
Don’t feel sorry for us– I’ve talked to countless parents with chronically ill kids. Guess what? The majority of them don’t feel sorry for themselves- they want to live their lives as normal as possible.
If you have a sick child, is there anything you’d add to the list?