When your child gets a diagnosis of disability, you might feel emotionally overwhelmed. It won’t always be like this, though, and there are some things you can do to manage your feelings in the meantime.
Your feelings: what to expect
Every parent is different. But after a diagnosis of disability, it’s very common for parents to feel confused and overwhelmed, shocked, disbelieving or numb and worried.
A whole range of feelings is normal.
As you get used to the situation, you might feel sad, especially when thinking about your disappointed hopes and dreams for your child and yourselves. There can be feelings of blame – directed towards yourselves and other people – as well as fear about the future. You might also feel confused and overloaded, with too much information, conflicting advice and pressure to make decisions.
Your feelings can be influenced by how your child’s condition affects other aspects of your lives – it could have an impact on your work, social life or the amount of time you can spend on personal interests or hobbies.
As with any family, the amount of support you have from others, like your spouse, family and friends, also affects how you feel. For example, lots of encouraging support will help you feel more positive about your new role.
When you finally get a diagnosis of your child’s condition, you might even feel relieved, especially if you’ve been worried about your child’s development for a while. A diagnosis often means you can start asking questions and making decisions.
There’s no ‘right’ way to feel. You can’t prevent your feelings, and you shouldn’t try. Dealing with your feelings is part of coming to terms with the diagnosis and moving on with your life, your child’s life and your family’s life.
Tips for coping with your feelings
Most parents and families eventually start to feel OK. They have positive feelings like love, joy, acceptance and satisfaction, and they start making new plans and having new dreams for their child.
These tips might help you manage your feelings as you get used to your situation.
Looking after yourself
Enjoying time with your child
Different relationships, different feelings
The way siblings feel will depend on:
As you take care of your child with developmental or special needs, it’s just as important that you and your spouse find the space in your day to practise self-care too! Watch on for some self-care tips from Dr Kenneth Poon.
Disability diagnosis: Parent reactions
In this video, parents of children with disability share their reaction to their children's diagnosis, and the importance of working through their emotions.