5 Things to Never Say to a Chronically Ill Parent

Posted April 8, 2015 by

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just write a letter to the world expressing everything we’re too polite to say, and that could just be the end of all our awkward encounters? Well, a gal can dream, right? Yet things aren’t usually so simple in real life. Actually, things tend to get quite messy when you’re a parent with a chronic illness (or two, if you’re like me). We chronically ill folks have years of experience dealing with unknowingly rude comments. But something changes when you become a parent. All of a sudden, the harmless jokes and insensitive remarks hit us harder and deeper because we are already painfully aware of our limitations and what we can and can’t do with our children. So, to all the well-intentioned friends and family, here’s a list of the top five things you should probably not say to a parent with a chronic illness.

1. But You Look Fine!
Unless you want to receive a death stare that could burn a hole through even the thickest slab of marble, keep this one to yourself. While you may mean this as a compliment, saying that the chronically ill person looks good actually invalidates them. You’re basically implying that because they don’t physically look sick, they must be fine. For most people with a chronic illness, this is usually far from the truth.

2. It Could Be Worse.
Sure, it could be worse. A meteor could crash through the roof while we’re talking. Regardless of how you “meant it,” this comes off as rude and minimizes the chronically ill person’s situation. A good rule of thumb is to put yourself in their shoes. If you just told someone about a bad or difficult experience and that person responded with “it could be worse,” wouldn’t you feel hurt by that?

3. Do You Ever Regret/ Wish…?
Sadly, this is something that has been said to me more times than I can count—which is crazy when you consider that one time is too many. Even if you genuinely think that not having a child would make things easier for this person, don’t say it. Sure, if I’m being embarrassingly honest, there are times when I daydream that I’m on an island somewhere, relaxing pain-free, with unlimited lives on Candy Crush. But I don’t for a second wish that I wasn’t a parent. Although not being vaguely sticky 24/7 would be nice.

4. Have You Tried…?
Yes. Whatever it is you’re about to name, yes. We’ve tried it and a hundred other things, and nothing has worked. Whether it’s trying to find an easier way to be physically active with our kids, or endless amounts of Google searches for cures to whatever ails us, chances are we’ve been there and done that. While you may be trying to help us brainstorm the perfect solution, here’s the truth: even healthy, average parents with healthy, average children run into challenges with no clear, easy solution.

5. What Can I Do To Help?
Actually, just kidding, this would be amazing! You may think we’re invincible superheroes who can do it all, but that’s just a front we put on because if we didn’t we might not want to get out of bed. So even if you think that offering help could be demeaning or intrusive, please do it anyways. And to all the people out there who can see through our hard exteriors, thank you. Thank you for listening, and thank you for supporting us.


Sarah holds a BA in Religious Studies from Stetson University and currently works as a cognitive skills trainer with children facing developmental challenges. In between balancing a chronic illness, work, and a feisty toddler, she loves to share her experiences, advice, and humor with others. You can find more of her writings on her blog, Bump Birth and Beyond! Follow Sarah on Facebook | Twitter

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  1. KWood (Edit) Report

    So True.As a 25 year totally disabled Parent I havenever heard “Is there anything I can do for You Dad?” Instead my Daughter of 18 will watch me through the Air Conditioned House not even “smart enough” to Bring Me a Glass of Water.I live 24/7 in Chronic Pain.Here is a Great Story.My Daughter Graduated HS in June,4.0 Honor Student etc but the Ceremony was held 24 Miles away instead of the School,at a Fairground of all Places.Well that day I cooked a Nice Meal for everyone so no one would have an empty stomach (it started at 4:30 pm)Still I got dressed and drove my Wife knowing I couldnt Sit in those Folding Chairs for long,well correct.Two hours into it as i Filmed the Introduction etc I couldnt take it and had to leave,my Wife actually forced me toleave as my face was written with Pain.Several hours later in comes my Graduated Daughter giving ME the 3rd Degree…”Parents are supposed to take their Kid out to Dinner after Graduation” and “Why didnt You see me on Stage with my 25 Cords” etc etc then said “Im going with my Friend as Her Parents are taking Her out to Dinner!” Well,If I dint Purchase Round Trip Tickets to LAX for Her Grad.Present so she could see Her friend I would have got a Refund.Children of the caring and concerned Type are Rare as Fine Gemstones,that was one day I wont soon forget.My Wife and Her Parents drove her Home,why didnt they take her to Dinner?Because they are Cheap thats why.There are Four of them and One of Me and this One is Physically Challenged,I have Money yes but not my Health.She started when she left the Graduation and didnt stop as I was told,well why didnt someone put her in her Place?Because she is a Spoiled Lazy Brat who has recently put on 30lbs laying around all Summer instead of Working 40 Hous a Week.Well,the Party is over,she is Graduated and now a “Full” Time Student with 12 Credit Hours….it doesnt end,she is a Mooch and ive learned to say “I dont know” or “No,I dont have one” etc etc as this is the only time she talks to Me is when she wants something which is Daily and she is my Step daughter of 14 Years,she doesnt know her real Dad and I think or would like to think Ive been a Role Model but when they are Born they either have too much White Matter in the Brain or there is something missing.I pity the Guy who puts a Ring on Her Finger as she will have a Ton of Baggage!
    PS Did I mention she has been on 2 cruises,2 trips to Puerto Rico and a Minimum of 20 trips to Disney/Universal in Orlando all paid for by “Dad”!She was Cute when she was Little but that has worn off at 18.



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