How to Cope When Your Child Receives a Diagnosis
I perform evaluations and tell parents that their child has a diagnosis weekly. There’s a lot that I have learned that I wish that I could tell parents during the process.
It is hard. I do realize how hard hearing the words that your child has a diagnosis is. Most parents have visions and hopes of how their child will turn out. It can be hard hearing that things might not be how you envisioned. Many parents start the evaluation process convinced that their child has a diagnosis. However, when they hear the official words, no matter how prepared a parent is, it’s hard. Take time to grieve. But then remember a diagnosis does NOT change or define your child. It only helps define a treatment plan and goals.
You will feel alone. Remember that feeling when you became a parent and you no longer connected to your friends that did not have children yet? You might feel that way around your friends again. People don’t intend to, but many people do not know the right words to say. They might give advice, say too much, or say too little. Join a support group. There are many online, support and therapeutic groups throughout the community. It is important that you find others that you can relate and connect to.
Focus on your marriage. It might sound counterintuitive to focus on your marriage before your children. However, marriages often weaken during stressful periods. Take time to strengthen your bond and show a united front. Having the support of your spouse will help you manage your stress and help parenting in the long run.
Be your child’s advocate. I secretly smile when a parent starts calling and emailing me requesting various things. I know that their children will be taken care of because it takes an advocate. Remember that no one will fight for your children quite like you. Become an expert in their diagnosis and the best treatment approach.
Don’t over schedule therapies. You will want to put your child in every therapy initially. I always tell parents to choose two at a time. The diagnosis does not define your child, and it shouldn’t define their time. Allow your child to do things they enjoy and don’t spend your entire time as a family running to one therapy to the next. Prioritize and stick with two.
Lastly, breathe. Just breathe. It will be okay. Move forward as a family. Make new hopes and dreams. And enjoy your child.
Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC
Clinical Director & Assessment Specialist