Parenting is hard. There are days that feel like they will never end, and years that seem to fly by like minutes. And within this confusing whirlwind of time, there are million of daily decisions and demands that have to be met. Should you sign your child up for basketball, or hockey? Girl Scouts or ballet? And forget ever being on time again, that train left when your first born came crying into this world.
So, if, along with all of the other stresses of parenthood, you find out that your child has been diagnosed with a developmental disorder, such as Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, you might feel like your world just came crashing down around you. That’s why we are here to offer some tips on how to handle this difficult time.
Know That You Are Not Alone
Depending on the age of your child, as many as 1 in 5 children a year are diagnosed with some form of mental illness. That means that many other parents are experiencing the same things that you are. Try getting involved in a support group- they even have them online now, which is fantastically convenient. Talking to other parents who are in your same boat can help normalize what you are feeling, and may even be a place to make new friends.
Understand That Guilt Is Normal
When something happens to your child, it’s normal to look at yourself and wonder what you could have done differently to prevent it. But, when that something is a diagnosis of Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, or some other developmental issue, it’s important for you to know that: 1) You. Did. Not. Cause. It. (read that until it sticks), and 2) These Things Just Happen. We all want to find reasons for why things happen in life, but, sometimes those reasons just aren’t available to us, so, don’t fill in the blanks! And be sure to get your information on causation from reliable sources, like therapists who specialize in Autism.
Hint: If someone tells you that your child’s disorder was caused by the glass of wine you had while you were pregnant, RUN, and don’t look back.
Get To Know Grief
By now, you’ve probably heard of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief, but, we think they are worth repeating:
Denial – Shock and an unconscious refusal to believe what has happened.
Anger – Being angry at yourself, the situation, God, or whoever you deem responsible.
Bargaining – Promising to never (insert undesirable behavior here) if the situation can just be reversed.
Depression – Losing hope and falling into despair.
Acceptance – Coming to terms and making peace with what is.
What’s important to remember about these stages is that they are rarely linear, and even if you think you’ve finished one stage, you may return to it again and again. People often ask us how long grief takes, and our answer is always the same: “It takes as long as it takes.” Don’t rush it. Just let it flow.
You deserve support! Don’t be afraid to reach out to trusted friends, loved ones, or even a qualified therapist to help you through this time. As flight attendants everywhere always say, you have to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.
If you would like to talk more about dealing with a child’s diagnosis, contact us. We are here to help!
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