Parenting is an incredible journey, filled with joys and challenges. When you're a parent to a neurodivergent child or teen, the path may look a bit different, but it's equally rewarding. In this blog post, we'll explore the importance of meeting your neurodivergent child where they are and working together to set attainable goals. Instead of comparing them to their neurotypical peers, we'll focus on identifying their unique abilities and supporting their growth.
First, let's clarify what neurodiversity means. Neurodiversity is the concept that neurological differences are a natural and valuable part of human diversity. Neurodivergent individuals may have diagnosis like autism, ADHD, dyslexia, or others. These diagnosis come with unique strengths and challenges, and they should be celebrated just like any other aspect of diversity.
The Pitfall of Comparison:
One common mistake many parents make is comparing their neurodivergent child's progress to that of neurotypical peers. While it's natural to want your child to succeed and thrive, this approach can be counterproductive. Neurodivergent individuals have their own pace and path of development, which might not align with the developmental milestones of neurotypical children.
Meeting Your Child Where They Are:
Instead of making comparisons, focus on understanding your child's current abilities and identifying the next steps for their growth. Let's illustrate this with an example:
Imagine you have a teenage son named Alex, who has ADHD. Alex struggles with impulsivity and often acts without thinking, which has led to conflicts at school and home.
What Not to Do:
You may be tempted to say, "Why can't you be more like your cousin, Emily? She always thinks before she acts."
What to Do:
1. **Observe and Listen:** Pay close attention to Alex's behavior and listen to his thoughts and feelings. Try to understand the situations where impulsivity is most challenging for him. Questions to ask yourself: What triggers his impulsivity?
When/where does he often struggle to manage? Why is that?
2. **Identify Current Abilities:** Recognize the areas where Alex already shows strength.
Questions to ask yourself:
When/where is he better able to manage his impulsivity? Why is that? How does he facilitate repair when his impulsivity causes harm to others?
3. **Set Attainable Goals:** Collaborate with Alex to set goals that are specific and attainable. For example, you might decide to work together on a strategy to pause and take a deep breath when he feels impulsive. Or, you might focus on how he an apologize/make it right when his impulsivity negatively affects others.
4. **Provide Support:** Offer support and resources that cater to Alex's needs. It could be therapy, mindfulness exercises, or a structured daily routine.
5. **Celebrate Progress:** Celebrate every small victory along the way. Encourage Alex when he successfully takes a moment to think before reacting.
In this scenario, you're not pushing Alex to be like Emily, a neurotypical cousin. Instead, you're recognizing his unique abilities and working with him to develop strategies that suit his needs. By setting attainable goals and celebrating progress, you're helping him grow in a way that's meaningful for him.
In the journey of parenting a neurodivergent child or teen, it's vital to embrace neurodiversity and meet your child where they are. By understanding their unique abilities and setting attainable goals, you can help them flourish in their own way. Remember that progress may not always follow the same timeline as neurotypical peers, but every step forward is a cause for celebration. Together, we can create a world where neurodiversity is cherished, and every child has the opportunity to thrive on their own terms