We all know what a typical conversation killer is: a line or phrase that ends a conversation with someone as soon as possible, intentionally or otherwise.
But what happens when a simple, seemingly casual comment about our lives as a special needs parent turns out to be a conversation killer?
People who are not familiar with special needs parenting can feel extremely uncomfortable with these discussions.
They can’t relate on a variety of levels, and they aren’t sure how to appropriately respond in many cases, so they do all they can to flee a conversation as quick as possible.
Special needs parents aren’t intentionally trying to destroy a conversation.
In many cases we’re trying to relate on the only level that we can.
Sometimes things just roll off our tongue without much of a second thought:
“I totally understand how it is when your child gets sick, it’s like when my daughter’s G-tube comes undone and spews everywhere in the night and she’s soaking wet with that acid-like smell.”
“Yes tantrums are tough, my child had one so bad that he had to open up four bags of popcorn in the store and then threw three of the bags at a lady sharing the same shopping aisle with us.”
“Potty-training at three? You are so lucky! Mine is almost eight and pees in corners and is backed up and is due for a suppository.”
So what is a special needs parent to do when we’re just attempting to participate and engage in conversations but wind up over-sharing with parents who cannot sympathize or understand?
First we need to back up and remember our audience.
Be conscious of the fact that you are in the presence of parents that have no idea about the yucky stuff, the complicated stuff, and the really awkward stuff that we contend with each day.
Even though you wish to relate on some level, keep the talk focused on others if need be.
Use a lot of interjections for conversation safety.
Ah huh, umms and intentional pauses so that you can redirect the conversation away from you and remain focused on the topics that are comfortable for the tone of the conversation.
Talk around the therapies, the tragic news that was just delivered to you at the doctor’s office, your child’s insurance denials, and all the laundry you have to do because you have an incontinent child…just say your day was okay.
Reserve those kinds of talks for real close friends and family that can hear you without being fearful of the news that was just delivered to them.
Find those who can relate so that you don’t feel like you just spouted out words that someone needs to run from.
Casual relationships and acquaintances and even co-workers sometimes just aren’t equipped with the conversation skills needed to discuss heavy topics that exist for a special needs parent.
And if all fails divert to something simple and talk about the weather…
Does your local park include accessible play equipment?