When your child is diagnosed with a learning disability, emotional disorder, or ADHD it can be a challenging time for your child and your whole family. Receiving a diagnosis like this can feel overwhelming to children and to parents even if they have been searching for answers for a while and are expecting to be relieved. Figuring out the most effective way to ensure that your child’s learning, emotional, and attention issues are being handled in the best way can be stressful and confusing at times. Your child’s diagnosis can affect his or her performance and attitude about learning. Struggling academically or emotionally can also affect your child’s self-esteem and their attitude and behavior at home. As parents, it is natural to expect that relief will come once a diagnosis is made but sometimes this can cause more anxiety as now a plan will need to be put in place to help your child. Here are some strategies to help your family get through this adjustment and help your child in the most effective way:
Allow yourself time to adjust to your child’s diagnosis: even though this is something your child is dealing with, it does directly affect you and your other family members. It is okay to take some time before you start putting a plan in place and scheduling meetings, etc. Allowing yourself to express your emotions will be important so that you experience some relief and can focus on helping and supporting your child. To relieve stress, do something that makes you feel happy and relaxed such as taking a bubble bath, going on a walk, getting a massage, etc.
Find a support group: whether it is in person or online, consider joining a support group related to your child’s diagnosis. Thinking about talking about your child’s diagnosis with other parents can be anxiety provoking but it can be very helpful and therapeutic to talk to other parents and families who can relate to what you are going through. It is also a great way to gain support and to be able to share strategies and ideas with each other.
Talk to your child about their diagnosis: talking with your child about their diagnosis is important so that he or she feels supported and validated in how they are feeling about it. Their self-esteem may be suffering in discovering that they have an emotional or academic diagnosis and they may be feeling anxious about going to school or interacting with their peers. Being open to discussing their feelings and reassuring them that their diagnosis does not define who they are can be very helpful for your child.
Share this information with family and friends: after you have taken time to adjust as a family it is important to share this information with your family and close friends. It can be helpful to share the strategies you are using at home or at school so that if your child is in someone else’s care the adults are aware of how to help your child more effectively. Being able to openly discuss how your child is doing and what you are experiencing is important so that you do not feel isolated or like you are dealing with it on your own.
Be an advocate for your child: talk to your child’s teacher and school counselor and make a plan to see if they qualify for academic accommodations and/or emotional support at school. It is best to have everyone on the same team working to help your child succeed academically, emotionally, and socially.
Focus on your child’s strengths: it is important to talk to your child and the professionals working with them about their academic strengths so that they can learn in a way that is most beneficial for them. Their self-esteem may be suffering since finding out they have a diagnosis and they may be struggling academically or socially. Focusing on the positive characteristics of your child and praising them for what they are good at will help them feel more hopeful and confident.
Be patient and willing to try new things: finding out what works best for your child and your family can be frustrating and it can take a while. Sometimes different approaches and strategies may need to be put in place before your family finds what works best for them. Be willing to try options that you may not have considered at first and encourage your child to have an open mind as well.
Find a therapist for your child and family: it can be helpful to have a therapist working with your child to help them adjust to their diagnosis and learn strategies for how to move forward academically, emotionally, and socially. It is also important that your child is able to express their feelings and worries about what they are dealing with at school and at home. Other family members may also benefit from talking to a therapist such as parents who may be feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes siblings need extra support and may be feeling lost in the process with so much attention being on their brother or sister. If your child is having social issues due to their diagnoses it can be helpful to enroll them in a social skills group where they can learn how to relate to their peers in a more effective manner and gain confidence in social situations.
Although a diagnosis of a learning disability, emotional disorder, or ADHD can be overwhelming for you and your child, it is possible to work through it as a family and help your child adjust and succeed academically, thrive emotionally, and be confident socially!