When families are dealing with special needs, many of the basic chores of everyday life go from humdrum to hassle. As your friends, neighbors, and church members care for family members with special needs, take some time out of your week to offer a helping hand. Here are several ideas:
- Offer to clean someone’s home on a regular basis for a predetermined length of time.
- Arrange for meals to be brought to the home two or three nights a week.
- Do something fun with one or more of the family members.
- Offer to fill their car with gas.
- Take their car to have it washed and serviced.
- Wash and fold their laundry.
- Offer specialty services like lawn care, cutting hair, or taking and picking up dry cleaning.
- Have a family member give you a grocery list and do the family’s grocery shopping.
- Offer to help with school-related needs: transportation, sports events, tutoring, and special projects.
- Help out with pets: cleaning cages, washing dogs, taking pets to your home for a while, or feeding and cleaning up after pets.
- Arrange appointments for medical or therapeutic needs; organize and design a family schedule.
- Research the Internet for information, provide transportation, or attend local support groups with family members.
- Put together a list of contacts willing to help in an emergency.
- With the family’s permission, send notes or e-mails to others with updates and requests that they pray diligently, daily.
- Give a nice gift, such as a journal or a basket of soothing bath supplies.
A note of caution: one common pitfall many people fall into when extending help to families with special needs has to do with expectations. All of us reasonably expect certain things from people in our everyday relationships, but as we extend loving care to families (such as in the ways mentioned above), we must not have any expectations . . . none. Do not expect to receive thank you notes, phone calls, special recognition, gifts, time, or any other type of positive regard or reward. Expectations damage the care-giving process and place an unnecessary burden on the recipient, so please leave expectations behind. Let the knowledge that you’ve done what God asked of you be your satisfaction.
Colleen Swindoll Thompson holds a bachelor of arts degree in Communication from Trinity International University as well as minors in psychology and education. Colleen serves as the director of Reframing Ministries at Insight for Living Ministries. From the personal challenges of raising a child with disabilities (her son Jonathan), Colleen offers help, hope, and a good dose of humor through speaking, writing, and counseling those affected by disability. Colleen and her husband, Toban, have five children and reside in Frisco, Texas.
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