Bringing up children is a fascinating journey filled with many experiences, each one distinct and beautiful in its own way, and is an essential part of parenthood.
However, if you're a parent of a neurodivergent child, you may sometimes find this journey to be layered with additional challenges and rewards. This blog post is written to provide you with a deeper understanding of neurodivergence and offer effective tips on how you can support your neurodivergent child on their unique journey.
Understanding Neurodiversity and Neurodivergence
Before we get into the heart of parenting a neurodivergent child, it's important to clarify two frequently misunderstood terms: 'neurodiversity' and 'neurodivergence.'
Neurodiversity is a concept and social movement asserting that neurological differences are valuable and should be respected, just like any other human variation. These differences include those labelled as Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, and many others.
Neurodivergent, a term originally coined by the autism community, refers to individuals who have these neurocognitive variations. In simple terms, if neurodiversity is the recognition and appreciation of neurological differences, neurodivergence refers to the individuals who manifest these differences. Neurodivergence exists within neurodiversity!
Parenting a Neurodivergent Child: Embrace, Empower, and Enlighten
With a clear understanding of these two terms, we can now look at - how can you, as a parent, support and guide your neurodivergent child in the best possible way? Here are some practical tips:
1. Understand Their World – get into their head space
Every neurodivergent child is unique, and their experiences will differ from their neurotypical peers and even other neurodivergent individuals. There is no doubt that it is difficult to understand, but make the time to understand your child's unique strengths, interests, and challenges.
If you need help in being able to do that, I offer parent coaching to help. If you don't know what parent coaching is already, you will learn about how your child's challenges affect their perceptions of the world. The more you understand, the better equipped you will be to provide your child with the support they need to grow into children with a healthy sense of self.
2. Foster a Positive Environment – including outside of the home
Provide an environment that respects and celebrates your child's differences, rather than one that stigmatises them. Reinforce the idea that being different does not mean being less. Encourage your child to be themselves and express their thoughts and feelings. This builds their self-confidence and acceptance of their unique identity and will create a sense of safety. Feeling safe will mitigate against anxiety, a common challenge for neurodivergent children.
3. Advocate for Their Needs – be your child’s voice
It's crucial to ensure that your child's needs are being met, both at home and in other environments such as school. This might involve having regular communication with their teachers about their learning styles, advocating for appropriate accommodations, and standing up for your child when they're misunderstood or unfairly treated. That goes for family members too, who often struggle to understand your neurodivergent child.
4. Encourage Their Interests and Strengths – connect with your child
Like any other child, your neurodivergent child will have their own set of interests and strengths. Encourage these interests, as they can lead to increased self-esteem, happiness, and even career opportunities in the future. A child with ADHD might excel in a creative outlet like art or music, whilst a child with autism may have impressive attention to detail. See the film about Temple Grandin. Temple Grandin is autistic and a world renowned expert in the field of autism. She thinks in detailed pictures.
5. Seek Support When Needed – take care of yourself
Raising a neurodivergent child can be challenging, and it's completely okay to seek help. Support groups, group coaching programmes and communities can be beneficial for both you and your child. You're not alone, and there are a lot of resources available to help and guide you on this journey.
Parenting a neurodivergent child presents unique challenges, but it also carries unique joys. With patience, understanding, and guidance, you can support your child to independence, and to living a full and happy life.