There’s a problem in my family: my cousin and his wife are in quite a tight spot (little kid, both work full-time, even overtime sometimes, not a lot of money), and receive little to no support from my cousin’s parents.
As my mum (his aunt) was always really close to him, we often help them instead, both with money and babysitting (esp during the holidays). I’d like to help them as well, but I’m rubbish with kids (she’s four and very hyperactive). Is there another way for me to support them?
I don’t know them, so it is hard for me to say what they need help with.
The best way to find out might be to ask them, possibly by saying something like: “I’m not comfortable watching children, but I’d really like to find other ways to support you. Is there another way I could be helpful?”
That said, asking an open-ended question might not make it possible for them to tell you what they did. Open ended questions don’t tell them much about what you are and aren’t ok with. If you don’t know what someone is likely to feel comfortable helping with, it can be really hard to ask for help.
So it might be better to offer something specific.
You may be able to help with childcare needs indirectly:
- People who have young kids and no childcare have to take their kids with them to a lot of places
- That makes a lot of errands take longer
- It also makes them more draining for both the parent and child
- Eg: Parents who have no childcare have to bring their kids to the grocery store
- At best, this means that grocery shopping takes longer because they have to supervise their kid and shop at the same time
- And they have to bring their kid even if their kid is too tired to tolerate it well
- Then the kid is miserable, and the parent has to deal with caring for a miserable (and probably uncooperative) kid in a public place while judgmental strangers stare at them
- And it’s likely that both parent and child will be upset even after the errand is over
- And it can interfere with sleep and make the next day difficult as well
- If you can do some of their grocery shopping for them, that can relieve childcare pressure without you having to watch any kids
Some other things that might help to relieve childcare pressure:
- Picking up their mail
- Picking up their prescriptions when they or their child is sick
- Dropping off things that they need transported
- Being at their house for the plumber/cable company/etc so that they don’t have to take off work (which means they have more time off available to deal with child-related things)
- Household tasks that are difficult to accomplish with children who need close supervision (eg: mowing the lawn if they’ve got one)
So, here’s a thing that happens a lot:
- Someone rides a wheelchair or mobility scooter into a room that has many chairs in it
- They want to sit on one of those chairs.
- Several people, trying to be helpful, dart in to remove the very chair they wanted to sit on
This is very annoying.
- Especially when it happens several times a week
- Especially when the people who dart in to remove the chairs are very proud of themselves for Helping The Disabled
- Even more so if they don’t understand “actually, I want to sit in that chair”, and keep removing it anyway
- Even more so if the person has to physically grab the chair they want to sit on to prevent it from being removed
- (And sometimes people react badly to being corrected and become aggressive or condescending)
Do not do this annoying thing.
- Instead, find out what the person you want to be helpful to actually wants
- People who use mobility equipment are not actually glued to it
- And different people have different preferences about where they want to sit
- You can’t know without asking them
- (You can’t read their mind, Some people seem to think that mobility equipment transmits a telepathic call for help regardless of the person’s actual apparent interest in help. Those people are wrong. You have to actually ask)
- You can’t know where someone wants to sit unless you ask, so ask
- One way you can ask is “Would you like me to move anything?”
If you forget to ask, and make the wrong assumption:
- Recognize that you have been rude
- And apologize, and say “Oh, excuse me” or “Sorry. I’ll put it back.”
- This is the same kind of rude as, say, accidentally cutting in line
- Or being careless and bumping into someone
- This is not a big-deal apology, it’s basically just acknowledging that you made a rude mistake
- People make and acknowledge rude mistakes all the time with nondisabled folks
- The same people who say “excuse me” when they bump into a nondisabled person, are often completely silent when they do something rude related to someone’s disability
- Being on the receiving end of a lot of unacknowledged rudeness is degrading and draining. Particularly when you see that the same people who are rude to you without apologizing say “sorry” and “excuse me” to people without disabilities they interact with
- Do not be part of this problem
- When you are inadvertently rude to someone who has a disability, it’s important to acknowledge and apologize for it in the same way you would for any other inadvertent interpersonal rudeness
Sometimes people in public places seem to need help.
And some percentage of those times, they actually do need help.
It’s good to offer help, but a lot of times people do it in a way that is invasive and unhelpful.
Here’s a way that’s good:
1) Ask if someone wants help. Some good phrases are “Would you like help?” or “Can I help you?”
2) Wait for a response. This is important, because sometimes the answer is no – and sometimes your instinct about what would help could actually hurt the person you are trying to help.
3) Listen to the answer, and help the person according to their instructions rather than your intuitions.