How to be a good friend when you have lots of challenges.
Maybe your child has really significant time and energy draining issues. Perhaps you are a parent, but you also have your own personal mental health or physical health challenges. My generation is now the “Sandwich Generation.” We are taking care of both our kids and our parents. There are lots of reasons that we don’t reach out to our friends more. Maybe because you “see” them on Facebook all the time, you feel like you’re spending time with them. (we’re not!)
Today I was at lunch with two friends. We started talking about social skills, the definition of friendship and reciprocating friendship skills. I know I have these skills. But I don’t always exhibit them. After a while it shows. Study after study shows that people who have active, true friendships lead longer, healthier, happier lives. I know part of the reason I’m worn down is that I haven’t had enough “me time” in recent months. Time to just go shop or chill with a friend. And not talk about our kids’ disabilities.
A little while back, I did a post about being a “Disability Tourist.” It continues to rank in the Top 5 most popular posts of this blog and has spikes of going viral. IT was published on Mom Speak and an edited version in print is in the July 2012 Issue of Metro Kids. So it’s a good post, and I’m not just saying that because I wrote it. I’m saying that because it obviously resonates with readers. But as I am re-reading the print version because I just got my hands on one, I’m having thoughts swirling in my head. And when that happens, you know I come here.
I’ve been wondering the past few days, if I am a good friend. Here’s what happened: Child with special needs is at school, I decide to take typical kid to Boomer’s, and I invite one of his friends. When we get there, his Pop-pop is dropping him off, and older brother is there. Mind you, I had considered inviting him, but realized I then wouldn’t have a car seat to take him home. But as I see Pop-pop standing there with the child, my eyes hit his little lunch box. The one that carries all of his stuff for his Type 1 Diabetes. And then it occurred to me, I am not even capable of caring for this child, because I don’t know the drill. So while this Mom watches my special needs child all.the.time, I can’t return the favor.
And ergo, I’m feeling like a crappy friend. Because I get over-analytical about some things, I’m wondering what other things I could do better, to be a better friend.
4 Simple Reminders of How to be a Good Friend.
How often do you ask your friends how they are doing? Yes, our lives are tough. Downright sucks sometimes. Doesn’t mean I can’t take five or ten minutes to find out how someone else is doing. ask your friends how they are doing Yes, our lives are tough. Downright sucks sometimes. Doesn’t mean I can’t take five or ten minutes to find out how someone else is doing. I find that it some of my relationships, because of Kevin’s many health struggles, my relationships often get stuck in a rut or pattern. That pattern is always being concerned about Kevin but not much else.
Do you ask your friends if they need help? We browbeat each other (in the special needs community) to ask for help when you need it. How often do you offer it? Sure, many days I’m barely keeping my head above water. But I have lots of good days too. Days when I do have time or can just lend an ear.
Typical families have struggles too. It’s not just my imagination. I have actually had people say to me “Well, I don’t want to complain, because what I go through is small compared to…” That doesn’t mean that their concerns aren’t valid or aren’t real. Typical kids have struggles. They get bullied and struggle in school. Sometimes they struggle with friendships and even their moms have to battle insurance companies and districts at times. How often do we validate the feelings of others, who are not in our special needs community? Which brings me to…
Take risks-ask. How often do you have the thought process of “Well, she’s probably too busy…” or “She never asks me to do anything, so she probably doesn’t want to.” We all have our own mind demons and doubting thoughts. Ask. Maybe that person is having the same thoughts as you are, and that’s why she never calls. Call. Text. Email. Stay engaged. Put yourself out there, ask someone who you don’t know that well to do something, just because you have a hunch you’ll hit it off. You’ll never know until you ask. If you don’t have anyone to ask, join a book club. Seek out a support group, see if you find someone there. Volunteer at your church or a non-disability related charity that you are interested in, to find someone with a common interest.
We’re all in this together. If we want inclusion, we need to do our part too. I’ve had so many special needs mom say stuff like “I just stay in special needs/autism/whatever disability world because it’s easier.” Yes, it is. But it can also be isolating. If we expect people to step out of their boxes and accommodate us, we need to do the same. Even if it’s more work.
This is one of the oldest posts on the blog. It was recently updated to edit and correct links and graphics.
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