Families with a child affected by a mental/neurological disorder often live a chaotic and stress filled existence. Often, the struggle is invisible to the public. Unknown to even neighbors, a series of chronic storms erupt inside the home. Furthermore, stigmas make seeking support challenging. Parents struggle to give time to all of their children as well as their marriage Siblings may resent the extra attention to the affected child. It is all too easy for fracture to take place and the results to each member can have short and long term consequences.
You want to help but how do you do it? Here is a list of suggestions that can get you started.
Food: It connects us. But good news-you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to share it. How about ordering a pizza? One of the best dinners shared with us was ham and cheese sliders that we could warm up and grab quickly on our way to the hospital. Truthfully, anything that offers a quick bit of nutrition and satisfies, feeds the stomach and the soul. Always make sure you are aware of any food restrictions (especially true if the child has a sensory issue.)
Gift cards. Medical bills quickly consume a budget. Sure, there are payment plans but when you have at least a few going, there is not much left for any extras. In addition, schedules can become packed with doctors appointments and unexpected health related crises. Furthermore, siblings often feel left behind as time and money are consumed quickly. Special family outings often disappear. Gift cards for a movie theater, McDonalds, and other “extras” are an appreciated treat. Gas cards are also beneficial.
Offer to take siblings for a few hours. Respite is necessary for all family members. Routines often become interrupted, noise levels escalate, conflict can be frequent. These factors contribute to a stressful environments. Can you offer your home as a quiet place of refuge? Renting a movie, supplying snacks, sharing skills, or even letting kids play on their electronic devices or read in a peaceful place is a gift. If you are more adventurous, try a park, ice skating or the beach.
Care for the affected child: This suggestion requires a familiarity with the child and their needs. Sometimes a new environment can be helpful. Other times, it may create further anxiety. If you can provide this option, it sends an affirming message to the child that they are capable of being loved on by those outside their family. To the parents, it sends an empathetic message.
Put together a gift basket: Parents naturally tend to invest their time, energy, and resources toward the health of their child. As a result, they are left “empty.” This affects their own emotional and physical well-being. It also leads to strained marriages. How about a gift basket filled with bubble bath, hand lotion, special treats, rental movie gift card, coffee shop gift card, teas, bottle of wine? Put on your creative hat and see what happens!
Share resources. Let’s face it, receiving money from others can be awkward. Yet, it may be the very thing that would help alleviate stress. Could you ask to pay a bill? Could you pay for a sitter? There are creative ways to share financially while not taking away dignity or creating an uncomfortable situation.
When a child fights a physical illness, it often leads to a rally of support. The visible symptoms communicate the urgency of support to others. Unfortunately, mental illness, addiction, neurological disorders do not always present in a way that draws attention. The family struggles silently. When we are aware of others’ needs, we become better advocates and neighbors. And we are transformed in the process.
Words barely express the ways your actions have breathed life into my daughter.
Movement into unknown territory involves risks. Your willingness to do that does not go unnoticed. As you know, she’s not one of those outgoing social butterfly types. She’s an observer. In addition, her mental illness makes identifying and controlling emotions challenging. She realizes the impact of her actions and words, yet, managing the whirlwind within becomes difficult at times.
By inviting her into your space, you moved beyond the walls of fear that easily keep us from engaging with those who seem different from ourselves. Sometimes the fears are rooted in real experiences, yet, each of us has our own narrative. You have demonstrated to others that learning how to give and receive support is a significant life skill. There is no “us” and “them.” Everyone faces their own struggles. Read more at:
Have you ever dreamed up big plans concerning how you can be used by God to change the world? Sometimes God puts big plans in our hearts. Plans so big and so overwhelming that the immediate reaction is to run; or at least find excuses. (Let’s not forget that Moses, Jeremiah, Saul, Peter…. encountered those fears). Without a doubt, God is in the business of using us, imperfect as we are, to accomplish great things.
Yet, we easily can get so caught up in those big dreams that we lose sight of the many opportunities we have everyday to bring the face of Christ to others. Many of those opportunities happen in the mundane, moments of our lives. Jesus regularly spent moments with those who he encountered….while traveling, stopping at a well, eating with friends. We get so accustomed to the tasks in our routines; so distracted by the images on our electronic devices, the agendas that fill up our days, that we don’t see others the way Jesus saw them.
I am reminded of a few scenarios in which I, unexpectedly, encountered what I call “Divine” moments.
- Finding myself lost in a lonely hospital hallway while looking for the meeting room of a support group I attended, I encountered a man. After helping me out, he shared with me that his wife just underwent a double mastectomy earlier in the day. He was on his way to her room.
- While we were cleaning out my grandmother’s space following her funeral, I engaged in a conversation with a man who poked his head in to my grandmother’s room . It was an encounter that, at first, seemed inconvenient with a man, who seemed “grumpy.” I left blessed. (For the full story:http://stephaniejthompson.blogspot.com/2013/04/divine-interruption.html
- Helping a woman at a party learn to use her smartphone to see pictures of her grandkids, led to her sharing about a predicament in her life and an opportunity to pray for her.
What if you listened (really listened-you know what I mean) to your kids/spouse tell about their day?