Friends how many of us have them. Friendship to me isn’t about how much we talk, but instead how much we’re there for each other in times of need. I pride myself in being someone who shows up for people. My love language is ‘Acts of Service’. In the past two years, I won’t lie, it’s been hard to show up for those who haven’t done the same for me; especially in my time of need. However, I’m extremely blessed to have literally a tribe of family and friends (who I consider family aka framily) near and far, who have stepped up for me, since receiving my son Jaxon’s Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) diagnosis.
People I thought were like family have literally been “insert crickets sounds”! Initially, I felt alone; like no one could see me drowning in the wave of emotions I was feeling. But those who saw and could at least sympathize, showed up! Some even admitted they couldn’t understand but still decided to show their support. From my Nana calling out the blue because the Holy Spirit put me on her heart to pray. To my bestest committing to 6:00 a.m. workouts after hearing me express my struggles with my mental health which was impacting my physical health. My MommiNation community, being a resource and always checking in with calls, texts and direct messages. My sister and mom always willing to babysit Jaxon so Ramon and I can have date night. To my two sister friend groups, “The Crew” and “S.W.E.E.T. Sistas” for creating a safe space for me to step out of my day to day routine and simply be me. To my “framily” supporting my boys’ sports and the Payne family PERIODT! I have to say my tribe has shown up and shown out!
Literally the love and support has meant the world to me especially in my darkest moments. If it weren’t for my foundation in Jesus Christ, I would have as Marvin Sapp sings, “LOST IT ALL!”. But through the Word of God, I can see his living word exemplified within my tribe. So, as we spread awareness in the month of April for National Autism Awareness Month, I would like to share with you some ways you can support another Mommi (and family) with a child with special needs and in my case ,a child on the Autism Spectrum. I pray these tips and scriptures encourage you to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
Many families who are raising a child with special needs feel alone and simply need a friend. Our child’s diagnosis can make us feel different from other families and find it difficult to connect with parents whose parenting journeys differ. However, we need you to call us on the phone and ask us to go out with you, even if we decline. We need to know you care about us and our family. Simply put we need your friendship.
“A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 NKJV
Sometimes we avoid topics of conversation that we have little experience with or make us uncomfortable. You may know very little about our child’s diagnosis but let that spark conversation to learn more. With compassion in your heart, ask how our child is doing. We want to talk about our child, and it helps to know you are interested and that you care. Parents of special needs children have ups and downs, so we want to process with someone, and you can be that person. Ask what you can celebrate with us about our child, to see the pictures and videos of our child doing cute and funny things and most importantly how you can pray for our child. Don’t let our child or their diagnosis be an unspoken topic of conversation. Become a safe place, a caring friend with whom we know we can share and be real.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NKJV
After you ask your questions, simply listen whether we are ready to share a little or a lot. Listen, and really listen. You may have advice or feel the impulse to fix a problem but do your best to listen unless you are asked to give feedback. As the conversation unfolds, ask more questions while respecting our family, but show support and love as you take a genuine interest and express your love for our child and our family.
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mark 4:23 NKJV
The most powerful thing you can do for a friend or family member raising a child with special needs is to pray. Pray for the concerns and needs we express to you, for our marriages/relationships/single-hood. Pray for the siblings of the child with special needs and upcoming doctors’ appointments, therapies, and schooling. We often seek out miracles, pray for miracles and breakthroughs for our child. As God leads, send a text during the week with a scripture or affirmation that you are praying over us and our child. Your prayers will help minister to us and can even carry our family into much needed miracles.
“…pray without ceasing,” I Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV and “Brethren, pray for us.” I Thessalonians 5:25 NKJV
Look for ways to encourage us and our family. We often feel overwhelmed and inadequate to help our children work through present challenges. We are dealing with fears and the unknowns of the future. Your encouragement can be just what we need to keep going. Talk with us about the way you see God working in our family. Tell us the progress you see our child making. Provide us the strengths you see in us as a parent. Furthermore, encouragement and speaking life into one another are powerful. Your words of encouragement will strengthen our hearts and keep us focused on the good that God is doing in our family.
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV
If you really want to go the extra mile to support your friend or family member who is parenting a special needs child, get practical and meet a need. What is a need they have, that you have the means to meet? Can you give time, energy, financial support? You can offer to babysit, so both parents can go on a date to reconnect or your Mommi friend can have some self-care time. Offer to take us to lunch, to talk and spend time listening and giving us time away from our role as a parent to laugh and enjoy an afternoon out. Likewise, you want to eliminate some stress and make or pay for dinner so we can enjoy an easy meal. See laundry piling up? Offer to take a few loads to do at your house. Lastly, even if we don’t take you up on your offers, the fact that you cared and wanted to help will be an encouragement to our hearts.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:12-13 NKJV
Mommi, if you can do any of the above, you are living out the scriptures. You are showing yourself friendly and showing love. It shows you are making a great impact. Being the hands and feet of Christ. Your heart to support your friend or family member is the heart of Jesus. Jesus came to serve and not be served. Your loving support to be a friend, show interest in their child, listen, pray, encourage, and meet practical needs is the heart of Jesus on display. As you discover your role, I implore you to take the opportunity to help your loved one who has a special needs child. Don’t be silent, don’t be distant, because your silence and distance speak volumes. Let me say on behalf of a family who has been on the receiving end of what was mentioned above, thank you! Thank you for caring, for wanting to come alongside our family’s journey. We need you. At time we may not always be able to express what we need and when we need it, but your support and love bring life and healing to our family. May God Bless You!
“And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13 NKJV