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6 Ways to Cope with a Difficult Diagnosis for Your Child

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
01/09/17  4:21 PM PST
diagnosis for your child

Whether you get a phone call or you’re sitting in front of your child’s doctor, if you have a child with special needs, you know what it’s like to get news that makes your heart sink, and changes your life forever. I had the good fortune of a lovely neonatologist to inform me of my son’s Down syndrome diagnosis in a way that brought hope. I know that is not always the case for families, and there have been many other situations between that day and now when the news was much harder to swallow. There are ways to cope with a difficult diagnosis for your child, and these are my favorites.


Six Ways to Cope with a Difficult Diagnosis for Your Child

  1. Remember that the diagnosis doesn’t change who your child is.It took me months to accept my younger son’s autism diagnosis. The word autism felt like it changed everything. I finally realized that nothing had changed except that now I had an accurate description of who he is, and one that gives me new ways to get therapy. Once I wrapped my head around the word, I was able to see that the new diagnosis empowered us to help him in new and better ways.
  2. Seek out community. There is comfort in talking with others who have been in your shoes. Social media makes finding a community of people easier than ever and sometimes it’s easier to reach out from the comfort of your own home. Support groups come in all shapes and sizes, and it is easier than ever to find one to meet your needs.
  3. Confide in a friend. If your spouse or parents are your normal support system, they might not be equipped to help you cope with a diagnosis that they are also struggling to accept. Finding a friend who has enough distance from the situation that their grief won’t distract them from supporting you is a good way to get the encouragement and strength you need.
  4. Allow yourself to grieve. It’s perfectly normal to go through many stages of grief, including sadness, anger, denial and bargaining before accepting the news. You might also cycle back through the stages, sometimes when you least expect it. Don’t beat yourself up for having strong emotions, it’s important to acknowledge them.
  5. Get organized or make plans. It can feel like everything in your life has fallen apart when you get difficult news. There is little that you can control about the news you get, but you can take charge of how you move forward. Getting organized and making a plan can restore your sense of power in a chaotic situation, and it can help you process and make sense of things when you have a plan in place.
  6. Ask questions. Knowledge is power, but it’s important to get your information from reliable sources. Googling can bring up frightening results, it’s better to ask the professionals as many questions as you can. Write down any questions that come up, and don’t be afraid to ask. If the answer is confusing, be honest and ask the doctor to help you understand what it means.

Eventually, you will find a “new normal” of living with a diagnosis for your child that at first seems completely foreign. Give yourself permission to take as much time as you need to wrap your mind around it without adding guilty feelings to your challenges. Each person has to do things their own way—there is no right or wrong way to cope with difficult news. The important thing is taking care of yourself, and your child.


For more on this topic:

How to Help a Family with a Child in the Hospital

10 Things to Bring on a Hospital Admission with Your Special Needs Child



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