Finding and nurturing people who will help your adult child have a safe and fulfilling life is an important part of a parent’s planning for when the parent is not around. Involved and interested family and friends can be the difference between a vulnerable life and a great life. But getting people to be involved isn’t always as easy as it seems. It involves more than simply letting people know you have a child with special needs.
If you want the people who know your child to be involved, you need to focus on your communication with them so that they have an understanding of your child’s life and so they understand that they are welcome to be part of it in many different ways.
Here are a few ways to boost your contact and draw people in so that they want to help:
- Incorporate More Emotion Into Your Updates
The human brain is more engaged by storytelling than logical facts. There are a few reasons for this, but the bottom line is that emotion plays a big part in decision making. When you tell people what’s going on with your child, talk like a parent. Let people hear when you are proud, scared, frustrated, excited or whatever about your child’s situation, and do your best to convey whatever emotions your child may be having about what is going on in their life. Rather than a big yearly report about where your child is living and what medical events have occurred over the prior year, pick out a few interesting stories to tell throughout the year.
Emotions activate the part of the brain that makes us feel as if we are part of something, even if we are not physically present. The more we feel that we are already part of something, the easier it is for us to actually take an action.
Your family and friends will feel less hesitation to visit or offer suggestions or help for your child when they feel like they are part of the circle.
2. Make Clear Requests for Help
Some family and friends may wind up hearing your stories about your child with no real expectation of doing anything other than kind of generally keeping up with the family. In many cases, even if they have a strong interest in the well being of your child, they may not know that there are things they can easily do to be an active part of your child’s life. Making clear and specific requests for action will encourage them to take a step toward less passive interest.
Requests can be as low key as asking people to send your child birthday cards, all the way up to more time consuming projects like taking your child to a movie or making calls to find a dentist that will work with your child. You don’t want to overwhelm people into feeling personally responsible for your child if they don’t have the time or inclination for that, but you don’t want to skip over smaller things that many people would be happy to do if they only knew they could.
Ultimately, you are trying to convey to people that they are welcome to be part of your child’s life in whatever way they choose. You will have chosen people who will play legally sanctioned roles for your child when you, the parent are gone, but don’t forget to let everyone else know that they can choose to be involved as much or as little as they want.
3. Use Pictures
Picture sharing is so easy now that there is no excuse for failing to share pictures often with your family and friends. Pictures not only contribute to the emotional aspect of your communication, they often stimulate ideas in the minds of your audience – for example, a picture of your child in their room might prompt someone to suggest new drapes that match some preference or interest your child has.
The Power of Community
The more people who are paying attention to what is going on with your child, the better off your child will be. Everyone’s life is better when they have friends around. But also important for a person who may not be able to advocate for themselves, the more people who are watching and paying attention to the care your child receives, the less likely any serious problem will develop. Parents may not be there till the end of their child’s life, but parents can protect their child till the end of the child’s life with smart planning.