What NOT to Say to Special Need Parents

what not to say to a mom of special needs children

If you’re the parent of a special needs child, you’ve heard the comments before: “Oh, you are such an angel.”  Or perhaps: “Those children must be so grateful that you rescued them.” Or my favorite: “I couldn’t do what you do, it takes a special mom.”

Often these comments are meant as compliments. People are trying to tell parents of a special needs child that they see the hard work and are impressed by what is being done. What they don’t understand is the full story. So here are some things not to say to a special needs parent.

“Oh, you are such an angel.”

Every time someone tells me this I feel like I need to reveal that time I yelled at my child during a meltdown. Or perhaps tell them about how frustrated I get when I explain a concept for the 100th time. Or perhaps tell them that I cry and yell at God about what will happen when I am gone and my child is alone in this world. Angels don’t usually yell at God, do they?

I am certainly not an angel and neither is my child. We are human. We are doing our best. We have difficult trials to overcome but haven’t we all.  Ours is just easy to see at times.

To all who see an angel. Please, that is too much pressure. I’m just a mom doing my best, just like you.

“I bet your child is so grateful that you rescued them.”

Our children are all adopted.  We knew (except for our first who has autism) we were taking on children with special needs.

But there was no rescuing on our part. In fact, the opposite is true. I dreamt of children. My arms ached for a baby. I wanted to wipe dirty faces, have tickle fights, and read bedtime stories. I wanted to be a mother more than I wanted Sunday naps, chocolate, or money (obviously since I have lost all three since having kids.  The kids keep discovering my chocolate stashes, and naps? Ya, right. Good one.)

My children rescued me. I’m a mom now. And that is my dream.

“I couldn’t do what you do, it takes a special mom.”

So you’re telling me you would abandon your child? No. I don’t think so. You haven’t done this because it hasn’t been required of you. But if your child got in an accident tomorrow, I would stand by your side, hold your hand, and help you through it. Because I am just like you and you are just like me.

We do what is required. That is what moms do. We love our children and we will help them through the tough times.

“What a priceless gift.”

This is the comment I would love to hear because it’s true! God gave me five priceless gifts. They were His children first. I have the opportunity to raise them and they teach me all that God wants me to learn.

Yes, they are priceless. And for now, they are mine.

Linking with Mardra, Kristi, and Ellen.

12 thoughts on “What NOT to Say to Special Need Parents

  1. I do think you’re awesome though, even if you yell. Perhaps in part BECAUSE you yell, because that gives me hope that I’m not a lost cause yet. 🙂

    I think the comment “I couldn’t do that” is indicative of our inability to see our parenting strengths. No, I wouldn’t abandon my child, but I probably also wouldn’t succeed as well as you have. It’s easier to see others’ strengths in parenting (partly because we aren’t as biased, and partly because we don’t often see parents at their worst), and much harder to see our own.

    I shouldn’t comment at night–the thoughts are all jumbled up and not coming out eloquently…

    1. Your thoughts are just fine Sandy! I think we see people at their best and compare them to our worst.And I agree. We often don’t see our strengths because it is “normal behavior” for us. I think you are a great mom and you work hard to do what is best for your children. Keep up the great work!

  2. I agree with you completely. It drives me crazy when people say and imply that it takes a special mom, or that they couldn’t do it. It’s not true in any way. We are who we are, and we do what we do because we’re moms and we love our kids. And to the rescue thing – it’s so unfair to think that way. I love my family (I was adopted) and never felt “rescued,” and neither should any kid regardless of abilities. So glad you linked up! xo

  3. This part is my favourite:

    . My arms ached for a baby. I wanted to wipe dirty faces, have tickle fights, and read bedtime stories. I wanted to be a mother more than I wanted Sunday naps, chocolate, or money (obviously since I have lost all three since having kids.  The kids keep discovering my chocolate stashes, and naps? Ya, right. Good one.)

    Sunday naps, chocolate, money. All good things.

    Children are truly priceless gifts and worth it all.

    As a child who was born with some special needs, I am in awe at what my parents did for my brother and myself. I don’t have children of my own, but I know it all, all you list in this post, have heard it all. Some mean well, more than others. This post is a helpful one for those who might say the wrong thing, though they don’t mean to.

    1. Thank you. I think most people have the best intentions when they way these things. They mean to compliment our parenting and strengths. But I believe most moms would find the strength to help their children any way they needed it. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Completely agree. It would be so nice to hear something like “What a priceless gift” for a change.

  5. A good FTSF post both from the perspective of the prompt sentence fragment and the perspective of perspective.

    It is perhaps the most common default assumption, to see a situation that, on the surface appears simple and understandable. Reality, especially those elements that involve other people have such potential for misunderstanding on the part of an observer.
    A good reminder to try to avoid assuming that the other person is experiencing the world exactly as we do.

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