If you have supportive friends and family, their help can go a long way towards those things that you just don’t have the time or energy for right now. But when your child has a chronic or serious illness, sometimes the idea of doing anything to manage this help seems overwhelming. You may want help and certainly need help, but have no idea what to say.
Even though you may generously offer to help others when they are in need, it may be difficult for you to accept help when it is offered to you. It may not be natural or comfortable for you to accept help or you may feel as though you will “owe” that person something in the future. Please remember most people are usually thrilled with a thank you. Even though you may not be able to return the favor directly, perhaps down the line you will have an opportunity to “pay it forward” to other families in a similar situation.
Sometimes offers for help come in waves, particularly at obviously challenging times, such as initial diagnosis or health crisis. It is quite common for chronic illness to see offers of help or signs of support dwindle over time. Some people will be there for the long haul and others won’t, so it may be especially important to take advantage of the help that is offered, when it is offered.
Try keeping an ongoing list of ideas, so you are prepared when someone offers to help. In addition, here are three possible responses to keep in your back pocket for making the best use of the help that is offered, without putting yourself out to do it:
1. “Please help by coordinating my offers for help.”
Your job is to be there for your child. Consider letting a trusted friend of family member coordinate your offers for help. Do you need meals? Do you need childcare for a well sibling? Do you need someone to walk your dog during the day? Do you need someone to do grocery shopping? If someone really wants to help, suggest this person be the go-between from you to the help you need.
2. “Please help by listening.”
Having someone listen with all their heart to the details and feelings surrounding your child’s illness can feel so good. When someone asks how to help, consider asking them to check in with you about your child’s illness, and then be ready to hear the real details of what’s going on.
3. “Please help by cleaning.”
Even with an ill child, all the day-to-day tasks still need to be done—the clothes need folding, the dishes need washing and the lawn needs mowing. For people who just simply want to do something for you, suggest they help out with a little of this cleaning and maintenance chores. Be honest with yourself: it may be uncomfortable to have a friend or family member clean while you’re home. In that case, let the person know when you will be gone and where they can find the extra key.