Managing Your Feelings After Your Kid’s Incapacity Analysis

© The mighty one
Little girl laughing while her mother hugs her in the field of flowers outside.

Finding out that your child has a disability can be an overwhelming experience. While there is no right or wrong way to feel, there is also no guide to the emotions you experience after hearing the news.

Personally, I experienced a whole roller coaster ride of emotions and ended up feeling very lost in the early days of my daughter’s diagnosis. I think many parents (myself included) experience shock, fear, sadness, and even shame when their child is first diagnosed. Other parents, like my daughter’s father, are so shocked that they initially feel disbelief and numbness about the situation until reality finally sets in.

All of these feelings (or others) are more than understandable – you’ve just received a lot of information!

The truth is that there is no right or wrong way to feel when your child is diagnosed. While you can try to suppress and ignore your feelings, you really shouldn’t. Indeed, you need to control and process these emotions so that you can help your child and find ways to thrive in your family’s new normal.

Because you juggle so much in the early days, it’s hard to know what to do with these feelings of guilt, sadness, anger, and envy. According to the Australian Raising Children Network, one of the best things parents can do during this time of diagnosis is to take care of themselves, both physically and mentally.

For starters, make sure you eat, moisturize, and sleep at night. This may mean shifting priorities or even finding creative ways to serve dinner, but you can.

You also need to learn how to accept your feelings and how to give yourself the time and space to fully experience them. Although your current feelings won’t last forever, it is best to meet where you are and be gentle with yourself no matter what you are feeling.

Gallery: Time-Ins Changed My Parents – Here’s Why You Should Try Them (PopSugar)

A woman is sitting on a sofa: In our house, Mr. Dinger and Ms. Ringer are the dynamic duo and in my opinion the power couple of 2020. They are our timers.  Your ringtones, rings and chimes can be heard in our house every day and signal that we are taking a break.  From Dr.  Introduced by Harvey Karp in his book The Happiest Toddler on the Block, time-ins changed our parenting.  Dr.  Karp describes time-ins as the opposite of time off and suggests using them to raise happy, patient, cooperative children.  A timer (with a cute, child-friendly name, hence Mr. Dinger and Mrs. Ringer) is set and the parent plays or sits with the child for the full set time.  No distractions.  No mobile phones.  No TV.  Just full undivided attention.  When the timer runs out, the activity is over and the parents can leave the child's side to attend to whatever they need to do.  You can start a time-in at any age.  We normally never set the timer longer than 30 minutes and never less than five minutes.  Littering these time periods throughout the day has really helped our parenting and thwarted tantrums that would otherwise have resulted from a lack of attention.  Aside from the lack of tantrums, our family fell in love with time-ins for a number of reasons.

If possible, open up to loved ones you trust so they can help you cope with anything. These friends or family members can be supportive and have an open ear without judgment. Sometimes a moment to vent is the best medicine for overwhelming emotions. So don’t feel bad!

Additionally, UK-based disability rights group Scope says it is far more beneficial for parents to focus on their child, not the diagnosis. Every child is different, even two children with the same diagnosis. So if you get caught up in comparison, you may feel even worse than before.

Instead, just hang out with your child and do normal, everyday things. For my family, this time means playing board games, reading stories, and snuggling up on the couch to watch my daughter’s favorite TV shows. In the early days of her diagnosis, those moments felt so comforting and reminded me that despite her new diagnosis, she’s still exactly the same child.

And when your child is making progress or reaching a new milestone, celebrate! Just because your child has a unique diagnosis doesn’t mean they still don’t deserve to celebrate small achievements.

Finally, I think my biggest tip for parents of newly diagnosed children is: don’t be afraid to ask for help!

As I was collecting data and preparing for my first appointment with a neurologist, I felt incredibly overwhelmed and insecure. However, by leaning on people with the same illness, I found it a little easier to deal with the time leading up to the appointment. And since my daughter was diagnosed, I’ve used several online support groups on difficult days and that has been really beneficial.

If you feel that your mental health is suffering from the news, you can also seek professional help. There are many therapists and other experts specially trained to help families deal with life changing events and you are a better parent to be able to get help when you need it.

When your child is young, it may also be worth checking your community’s early intervention services to see what support your family may qualify for. These organizations often provide you with the tools you need to help your child. However, they may have connections that can also help you deal with any problems.

Although a disability diagnosis can evoke a lot of emotions in parents, it can almost never be dealt with. Just try to take things one day at a time and be patient with yourself. As someone who has been there, I can promise you that when you reach the other side, you will get through this and your child will thrive.

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