Providing mental and emotional support for a family member with a disability is no easy task. After all, depending on the nature of the disability, family members might feel out of their comfort zone, or struggle to find the right words to say to a loved one when he or she is having a bad day.
If a loved one in your family has a disability, it’s important to know what to do when he or she needs your love and support. Consider using the following advice when you want to show your loved one that you’ll always be there:
• Don’t over-sympathize: Don't go overboard with identifying with your family member if their having a bad day. This can often come from a place of good intentions. However, this might make a person with a disability actually feel worse.
• Engage in fun activities that the two of you can enjoy together: Develop a ritual of watching your favorite TV show together or schedule regular phone calls to talk about celebrity gossip, whatever works. Doing regular, and fun activities can lift someone’s spirits when he or she needs some extra love.
• Don’t be afraid to talk about the disability. Even though your family member likely doesn't want to be treated with kid gloves, in making an effort to avoid talking about the disability altogether, you could contribute to making them feel invisible. Talk about it in a way that’s respectful, without it becoming the prime focus of all your interactions.
• Your family member is much more than a disability: He or she needs to be treated as such. Talk about every day normal things, make fun of your creepy uncle together, or just play video games while your family is in the kitchen cooking up a dinner. Overall, just treat your loved one as they are: a person who has a special place in your heart, regardless of their disability.