Throw Out Everything You Assumed About Parenthood

Your child is “different,” and that means you need to question everything you assumed to be true about parenting. Shift your thinking, using this neurodivergent guide.

Father carries his neurodivergent differently wired child with ADHD on his shoulder
Illustration of a father carrying his neurodivergent differently wired child with ADHD on his shoulder

This is article 5 in a 5-part series on how shifts in daily perspectives can help a parent embrace and support her child’s neurodifferences. Click here to read the introductory article, “Stop Fighting Your Child’s Neurodiversity.”

Question Everything You Thought You Knew About Parenting

A neurodivergent child needs a parent who will question all of his or her pre-conceived notions about parenting – from the philosophies espoused in books to the traits your family values most, like education or nutrition.

Unless you honestly examine every aspect of how you think you feel about raising your “differently wired” child, you will subconsciously see everything through an outdated lens. You will be constantly trying to cram your square peg into a round hole.

That is not going to serve your child. You will keep trying to adapt and change him rather than truly learn who he is.

There is no one right way to parent. That is especially true for parents raising kids with neurological differences. When you start questioning widely held ideals and assumptions, you will start to feel happier and freer about what’s possible for your child. It won’t happen overnight, but embodying this questioning mindset gets easier with practice.

Reflection Questions for Parents of Neurodivergent Kids

Ask yourself:

  • How willing am I to question what I expected my child’s life to look like?
  • Where am I regularly coming up against my own parenting expectations not meshing with our current reality?
  • How might my beliefs about the way things should look be keeping me stuck?

[Read This: Ditch the Deficit Thing]

Shift Your Mindset, Thoughts, and Actions

Then, start working on these steps.

Break free of limited thinking. Get honest with yourself about the beliefs you’re holding on to about what your child’s life should look like.

Stop “shoulding” yourself. Eliminate the word “should” from your vocabulary altogether. When you find yourself using that language, challenge those thoughts. Try to flip them around and think about why those “shoulds” or “have-tos” might not actually be true.

Imagine what’s possible. Ask, “If I knew I would be successful in doing something for my child, what would that look like?” Consciously set aside time to explore this. What would an ideal day or life in a perfect world look like for your child if he were wired exactly the way he is? You can start to discover, or at least crack open the window of what might be possible when you start opening up your imagination in a positive way.

Fill your inspiration bucket. Raising neurodivergent kids requires bravery; you are barreling headfirst through uncharted territory. To do this work, you have to admit when something isn’t working, and accept the idea that you need to make some changes. That requires bravery.

One of my personal strategies for getting more comfortable being uncomfortable is to get inspired by stories of people who are breaking the rules and forging their own path. They can show us that what’s possible is actually much greater than we may ever have imagined.

[Read This Next: It’s Not an Excuse. Or a Label. Or a Load to Carry. It’s Just Who You Are.]

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.

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