Release Your Fears: A Post-Diagnosis Guide for Parents
Fear of the unknown will only hold back your neurodivergent child. But knowing that won’t stop your brain’s 3am parade of terrifying “what-ifs.” Here, learn to recognize when anxiety is driving your decisions, and how to choose love and possibility instead.
This is article 3 in a 5-part series on how shifts in daily perspectives can help a parent embrace and support a neurodivergent child. Click here to read the introductory article, “Stop Fighting Your Child’s Neurodiversity.”
Parent from a Place of Possibility, Not Fear
With each passing year, I felt increasingly limited by the options available to my son with ADHD and high-functioning autism. Fear played a bigger and bigger role in my life.
- What happens if we choose the wrong school?
- Will my son ever be able to function independently?
- What if the diagnosis is wrong?
- Am I doing enough to help my child?
- Will things always be this hard?
The “what-ifs” kept me up at night. Living a life driven by fear was really painful.
The problem with this perspective: I was equating my child with his diagnosis instead of seeing him as a creative, amazing human who is here to shake up the world. Living in fear and anxiety affects our children, who may be anxious or extra-sensitive by nature. Our fearful energy has a trickle-down effect on them.
Reflection Questions for Parents of Neurodivergent Kids
Use these reflection questions to determine if you are living in fear of neurodivergence:
- Do I make decisions from a place of fear or possibility, both in my life at large and in my life with my children?
- How might fear be holding me back from making decisions that could benefit or better support my child?
- How might my concerns about the future be undermining the way I’m parenting my child and the choices I make?
Take a step back and think about what’s motivating you to make choices about your child’s school, your home, or your family plans. Fear is an incredible motivator. It feels safer somehow to choose fear because it is known. Going out on a limb can feel scarier.
Work to Overcome Your Fears
Confront your fears by naming them. The more clearly you state what you are afraid of, the more clerly you can see how it impacts your life. Acknowledging irrational, worst-case-scenario fears can take away the power and influence they have on you and your decisions for your child.
Use optimistic language. Language can influence our experience and how we feel. It’s one of the reasons I say “differently wired,” which feels positive and curious as opposed to “deficit” or “disorder.” Instead of talking about how concerned you are, try the word “curious.” For example, if you’re worried about your son at camp, say, “I’m just so curious to know if he’s going to make any friends.” Your experience may shift by using more optimistic words.
Trust your ability to know what your child needs. When you’re really consumed with fear and worry, you’re putting yourself down. You’re acting like you aren’t as capable as you really are. You are a creative, resourceful, and committed parent who has what it takes to ensure your child gets what he or she needs every step of the way. Remind yourself of that daily.
This advice came from “Accepting Your Child’s Diagnosis: Transform Your Mindset, Thoughts, and Actions,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Deborah Reber in June 2018 that is now available for free replay.