All parents end up on the receiving end of advice they neither asked for nor want, but parents of preemies tend to have to listen to unsolicited advice more than other moms and dads. One reason is that so many premature infants and children look robust and healthy, even if they’re dealing with day-to-day health issues or developmental delays. Outside observers who don’t know the whole story – or simply don’t understand the effects of prematurity – often feel like they’re doing parents a favor. And in fact, the advice they offer is usually well-intentioned, even if it seems judgmental or critical.
That doesn’t mean that unwanted advice isn’t irritating or, at times, hurtful. Here are four ways you can cope with the kind of unsolicited advice that most preemie parents have to deal with on a daily basis:
Teach Others About Prematurity
Being open and honest about the realities of prematurity takes time and can involve sharing details that feel private, but it’s one way to ensure that the advice giver doesn’t keep offering up unwanted recommendations. If they still insist that their way is the only way, suggest that they do their own research on prematurity before offering any more parenting tips.
Smile, Say Thanks, and Move On
Graciously listening to what the advice giver has to say (within reason) doesn’t mean you have to put any of their recommendations into practice. Sometimes the easiest way to avoid conflict – especially when you’re dealing with a stranger who you’re unlikely to encounter again – is to smile, say thanks, and move on. You may have to grit your teeth, but just remember that people who choose to judge your situation without knowing anything about prematurity are not worth your time and energy.
Quote Your Pediatrician
In most cases, doctor’s orders trump outside advice, so if you find yourself in a situation where an advice giver just won’t drop the subject, try saying “That’s very interesting, but our pediatrician said…” In many cases, that will be the end of the discussion. Note: There’s nothing wrong with stretching the truth a little here if you’re in desperate need of a conversation ender.
When you know the advice being given is well-intentioned but it’s still making you feel bad or angry, speak up. Let the advice giver know that he or she is being rude and tell them in no uncertain terms that because they do not know or understand your preemie’s medical history they are not qualified to comment on your parenting choices. Most people, if their advice truly was well-intentioned, will apologize.
Graham’s Foundation assembles and sends care packages designed to meet the physical and emotional needs of parents of preemies by providing goods and services that are both practical and inspirational. The charitable organization was founded in 2009 by Nick and Jennifer Hall, who experienced the rollercoaster ride of being parents in the neo-natal intensive care unit, losing their son Graham after 45 days, and their daughter Reece’s four-month NICU stay. or connect with us on Facebook, where parents of preemies can connect with their peers.