13 Apr Coming to Terms with Your Child’s Diagnosis
For some, the word “diagnosis” can feel like a death sentence.
Yet, I am here to remind you, that feelings are not the truth. Each human is unique. This statement is true. Not only is this statement true, it is a value that we attempt to teach the younger generations, the children, to accept as true. If we can teach the younger generations that each person is unique and special in their own way, we are doing our part to spread tolerance, acceptance, and human worth.
Yet, why do we adults have such a hard time accepting this truth? Oh, sure, we can accept that cousin Joe married someone from another country, or that our neighbors practice a different religion than us, however, when we hear the results of a test, stating our perfect little angel has…ADHD; Depression; Anxiety; Autism; OCD; Bi-polar etc., our hearts sink, and our lives feel very unstable.
A diagnosis may feel like death, and it may very well be the death of a dream, but it is not death for you, or your child.
Why then, does it feel like death? The answer is this: grief. When humans hear that their child is diagnosed with something, whether that be a learning disorder or mental illness, there is a natural cycle of grief.
There are 5 stages to grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Let’s take a closer look, into how these stages may surface in your life, after learning your child has been diagnosed with a disorder.
Denial: This can’t be true
Anger: What did I do wrong? Was it my genetics?
Bargaining: I’m going to seek a second, third, and fourth opinion
Depression: It is true, this is my reality
Acceptance: We will get through this, this is not the end, I will find the right people to help
Grieving looks different for everyone; for some it may live on the surface, an ever present, unwanted companion.
For others it may be internalized grief, causing turmoil or a quiet sadness. Either way, it is important to remember that grieving is allowed, and is healthy. Despite what our feelings say (feelings are not facts!) all you Mamas and Papas are allowed to be sad, to express frustration, to grieve the dreams, and the plans you had in your head the day you brought your child into this world. The thing about grieving is that it allows us to say goodbye to the past and move into the present; and in the present, you have a beautiful child, who needs you.
As you move through the cycle of grief, and reach acceptance, you will begin to find your people. You will begin to find the strength to acknowledge your child’s distinctive characteristics and accept that he or she encapsulates the values we as a people hold: everyone is unique, everyone is different, everyone has value.
Throughout this blog, you’ve read about finding your people, and accepting your child’s diagnoses. What does that look like on a practical level?
What to Do Regarding Your Child’s Diagnosis
- Educate yourself on your child’s diagnosis
- Search out reputable books and blogs by professionals
- Ask your doctor for resources and referrals
- What is in your area? What other evaluations are needed?
- Look into the appropriate therapies for your child
- Speech Therapy/Occupational Therapy/Social Work/Clinical Therapy
- Find appropriate social groups for your child
- Children need peers; look into groups offered through therapy practices catered to your child’s diagnosis
- Talk to School, request a 504/IEP meeting
- Your child has educational rights; Schools are obligated to meet them
Tips for Coping with Your Child’s Diagnosis
- Find a support group for parents
- You are not alone, and need to learn from those who have gone before you
- Find a therapist for you
- Learning your child’s needs can be exhausting; you need space to grieve/process/learn how to manage stress
- Find a marriage therapist
- Parenting is hard, parenting a child with special needs can take a toll. You and your partner need to re-learn how to work together. You need to know you have a partner, and share the new expectations you have of one another
- Take a break
- Babysitters are still allowed!
- Look into respite workers for your family (https://www.care.com/respite-care/chicago-il)
- Spend time with friends
- Don’t forget to breathe
- Self-care is important, spend time recharging
Welcome to the rest of your life; you are the parent of a UNIQUE, WONDERFUL, AMAZING human being. Don’t forget, it truly, truly takes a village!
North Shore Family Services is a team of skilled and approachable therapists that help parents, children, teens, adults, and couples reduce anxiety and stress, learn effective problem-solving techniques, and manage emotions and behaviors that inhibit personal, school, family, and relationship success. We make therapy a productive, engaging and relaxing place for everyone to work hard and make the improvements they desire. To find the right-fit therapist for you and your family, visit our clinician’s page.