When a family member or friend has a baby in the NICU, it can be hard to know how to support them. You want them to know that you’re there for them, but you don’t always know what to say…
The NICU journey is truly unique. It comes with so many ups and downs, and it isn’t always easy to understand how parents are feeling if you haven’t been down that path yourself.
But it’s so important to let NICU families know that you love them, you’re thinking of them, and you want to do whatever you can to make this time easier for them.
Here are a few ways you can support the NICU family in your life:
- Avoid comments like “he’s so tiny.” Yes, preemies are tiny little miracles, but try to focus on other attributes. Think along the lines of “he’s so cute!” or “she has your nose!”
- Be a great listener. NICU parents are on a roller coaster, and they need a shoulder to lean on. Listening to their worries and fears, paying attention to the progress and updates, and celebrating the milestones shows them how much their journey matters to you.
- Give appropriate gifts. Try to consider what they need right now. Some gifts can be upsetting to NICU parents - if you’re not sure, check out everytinything.com for care packages and keepsake gifts created just for NICU families.
- Stay in touch. NICU parents get LOTS of support in the first few weeks, but some families will be there for months. Check in regularly throughout their NICU stay.
- Don’t ask what you can do to help- that puts the burden on the parents. Instead, just DO helpful things! Send an UberEats gift card, take their other children on a fun outing, or gift them a visit from a cleaning service.
- Remember, it’s not about you! Of course you want to see the baby. Of course you’re worried- but don’t burden Mom and Dad with that. Put their needs first and don’t push to visit if they’re not ready, and don’t foist your fears onto them.
- Be sensitive to what they’re feeling. People often say things like, “this is a part of God’s plan,” or “you just have to have faith!” Honestly, there are days when parents may struggle, and platitudes won’t help. The NICU has incredible, miraculous moments of hope and faith, but some days are tough and it’s far better to be a source of comfort than to force a conversation of faith.
The NICU journey is unlike any other, and parents need strong, loving support through this challenging time. The very best thing you can do is to be there when they need you and let them know that you will stand by them through thick and thin- now, and long after they leave the NICU!