Whatever the special-ism need…ADHD, anxiety, FASD, Autism, not important…there’s always that dreaded conversation that you are going to have with your family and friends about your child.
First let me say that I love my extended family. I love my in-laws, my parents, our entire clan…my wife and I both share a love for one another’s families as well. It’s such a blessing to have a strong relationship with family—don’t know how we would be where we are if not for their love and support.
BUT…that’s not to say it was always a bed of roses.
Discovering the Special-Ism
We first realized something wasn’t quite typical with our son around 13 months. My wife has a background in special education and deaf education so she saw signs pretty early on in his life. At first she thought it was her being a new mom and over-reacting, but as he continued not to develop typically and her questions weren’t answered by the medical world as she had hoped for, we knew that he had autism.
Our initial response was denial…not uncommon in our worlds. Next we tried to “hide” his situation…I mean, what 2-year-old child engages with others? What infant really has good eye contact and doesn’t flap? So we would put him in the nursery or other programs and he would do his thing and most people didn’t recognize that there was something different about his reactions, behavior and engagement…except our family of course.
My wife and I are both very proud people. We are also pretty stubborn and sensitive—especially as it relates to our children. So when we started receiving links to articles, magazines, books, stories of: “I have a co-worker who has a grandchild that flaps…” you start to get a little annoyed.
Remember…we hadn’t even had a formal diagnosis at this time. We all knew something was different but not sure what it was. But (in love) we were FLOODED with opinions and articles and stories and all this stuff.
That only made us more upset with the situation. I know family and close friends were trying to be helpful…but they weren’t.
Remember, You are in Control
THE KEY THING TO REMEMBER PARENTS is that YOU control the content. YOU control the information that is given and when it’s given and to whom it is given. That might seem mean or selfish—but it’s not. YOU WILL GO CRAZY IF YOU HAVE TO START EXPLAINING TO FAMILY MEMBERS BEFORE YOU ARE READY…trust me on that one.
A great tip is to make everyone aware that, yes, there is something going on with your child, you are on top of it, you appreciate support, prayers, kindness, patience…but you and your spouse (hopefully the husband is still in the picture) are a team and are doing what’s best for your child.
You do not have to tell them more than you want. In fact, I would encourage you not to…until you get that diagnosis then it’s no one’s business, no one’s opinion or expert analysis what’s going on with your child!
Dealing with the Diagnosis
WHEN you do finally get a diagnosis…you still don’t have to tell the world. Take time to soak it in, discuss with your spouse how you want to tell others. You need to share it with family of course, but not the minute you get out of your doctor’s office.
It’s so important to wait for the diagnosis because you don’t want anyone and everyone playing doctor with you and your child. But once the diagnosis is in, you need to share with those who love and support you. Here are some tips:
- I didn’t want to share with friends and co-workers and that was a BAD IDEA…my son’s situation weighed heavily on my heart and I suffered at work, I had a horrible attitude and disposition all the time and it could’ve cost me relationships and my job.
- Another tip is to share (as much as possible) individually with family and friends. It’s such a shock and impersonal to receive a mass email or conference call. And what you really don’t want is to share in a group and then all of a sudden it’s this huge group discussion with suggestions and stories and all that flying all over the place.
- AFTER everyone is aware…THEN I would consider writing a mass email to family and friends, thanking them for their support, thoughts and prayers and appreciating the space, privacy and respect that you deserve/need as you deal with the situation.
- Also include in that mass email how you want your child to be treated…how you want to be treated and also WHAT YOU DON’T WANT…very important. You don’t want people treating you differently or any awkwardness going on.
What Have You Learned?
Okay, rambling time is over…so, if you learn anything from this article, hopefully it is:
- You control the content—when you tell, what you tell, who you tell
- Wait for an official diagnosis
- Be appreciative that people want to help by giving you opinions, books, magazines, stories…but remind them that just like your child, every situation is unique so a certain therapy or vitamin or potion might not work for all children.
- Tell friends, co-workers, church members, groups…in the right time let them know
Most of all—make sure you’re on the same page with your spouse. You have a long and hard road ahead of you but if you’re on the same team with your loved one, it sure makes it a lot easier.