Saturday, July 11, 2015

Top Six Things Never to Say to Couples, Parents, or Caregivers

The child in the picture put the sock
in her own mouth, interestingly enough,
well before I was more worried about
what might come out of her mouth than
what she might put in there that didn't belong. 
I have put the following statements some of my friends and I have heard ad infinitum (as well as a few I’ve been guilty of asking or saying myself) by putting them into three categories:

Never: just stop saying these things altogether.

Okay: frequently used questions or statements that aren’t quite as taboo or offensive, but which should only, if ever, be uttered by close family or friends in a private setting.

Better: suggestions can be used much more liberally and usually is acceptable to say to acquaintances.

#1. Got Kids?

Never: Why don’t you have children? 

Okay: Do you have children? It is okay to ask if you genuinely don’t know the answer. If you’re digging for personal information about their fertility or infertility, don’t bother even asking this. 

Better: Tell the person the reason behind your inspiration for asking if it’s something complimentary about them that has made you wonder if they have their own offspring. 

Example: You’re so great with kids.  You have so much energy, patience, compassion; such a high tolerance for pain, lack of sleep, utter chaos, knowledge of First Aid, triage, etc…

#2. Are You Done, Yet?

Never: Are you finished now that you have X number of children? is NEVER okay to ask.  Not even the primary care physician of the mother or father should ask this question in such a way that implies the couple shouldn’t have any more children.  That isn’t your decision to make.  
Okay: Would you like to or are you hoping to have more children?

Better: Would you like us to watch the kids for an evening, so you can have a date night with your spouse?

#3. An Improbable Epiphany

Never: Have you ever thought of adopting? We’ve gotten this one a lot.  It's kind of a ridiculous question to ask if you really consider it.  I don’t know any couple who has struggled with infertility and has not considered adoption as one of the possible options.  You’re not suggesting anything we haven’t already thought about.  There’s a lot more to it than you realize and/or probably want to know. 

Okay for a friend to ask: How do you feel about adoption?  Are you and your spouse open to adopting?

Better: Share a story about someone you know who is adopted or has adopted and see how they respond.

#4. Endangered Adults 

Never: Cherish this time, because it goes by so fast.  It not necessary to remind a parent or caregiver of this when they are holding a cuddly baby, a snuggly toddler, when the kids are sound asleep, the adult is able to laugh about earlier embarrassing incidents, and/or the discussion is centered on admiring the personality of an older child, because the adult in question is probably already treasuring those precious moments.  

For your safety and their sanity, don't ever say cherish to a parent or caregiver who is currently: a.) covered in spit-up, snot, vomit, pee, poop, and/or splattered food b.) in the middle of changing a messy, nasty-smelling diaper while the pooper is flailing fecal matter in all directions,  c.) in desperate need of a shower, a good night’s sleep, or just a measly five minutes alone, d.) trying to pry a toddler-sized blob off of the floor e.) attempting to calm a young person of any age who is presently pitching a knockdown, drag-out fit in the middle of any place, public or private f.) liable to leave you with any or all of the offending parties and run away.    

Only crazy people would be able to “cherish” these types of moments as they’re occurring.  You have my permission to despise the exasperating aspects of parenting, nannying, teaching, and/or taking care of children in any capacity.  You don’t need to cherish the crappy moments or even like them.  Do your best to keep cool or even just a low level of warm instead of blazing enraged. 

#5. The Pollyanna Approach

Never: Things will get better soon.  For one thing, this isn’t necessarily true.  Things may get worse, more hectic, and be more painful for quite some time before they eventually improve.  On the other hand, things may improve, but not in the timeframe you had hoped.  Then again, life could continue to drain all of your energy and creativity by presenting ever new challenges and obstacles that will basically keep you at the same level of struggle without getting better or worse.   

Okay: I’m sorry you’re having such a rough time.

Better: So tell me about what’s been going on…said sincerely and followed by attentive listening. 

#6. Used Up Euphemisms

Never: Someday you’ll look back on all of this and laugh.  I’m guilty of saying this to a friend who was at her wits end after a tough time with their infant daughter.  Fortunately, her husband helped me snap back to reality by responding with: “Yeah, maybe when dementia sets in.”

Got Something to Add to this Never List? Please share it!

I’m sure other people can make some great additions to this list; it is my hope they'll add them in the comments section and/or e-mail them to me directly, so I can create a more thorough list of what not to say, at least, if sensitivity, compassion, and/or tact are important to you. 
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