By the time an evaluation happens, there’s already been a growing sense that something is not right. Concerns you as a parent have, or brought to your attention by the doctor, have led to this point. The evaluation process may feel scary and overwhelming, but diagnosis day is often when parents and caregivers start to come to terms with a new reality and look to a future that may seem uncertain.
Processing the information given during a diagnosis will take time. Naturally, there will be lots of questions. While each family’s path from evaluation, to diagnosis, and then treatment will be unique, there are a few ways to ease the transition. Parents and caregivers need to give themselves permission to own their feelings, take the time they need to obtain and process the information, and make sure they are setting healthy boundaries for the next phase.
Here are a few key takeaways for parents after receiving a diagnosis.
A Sense of Relief
Expect all manner of emotions. This is normal. They may include sadness, anger, worry, guilt, or even denial. For many parents, however, receiving a diagnosis brings a sense of relief. Which may feel shocking or unnatural. But knowing what’s going on, and giving it a name, justifies the concerns you had. It explains what you were experiencing, and provides direction for where to go next. So allow yourself to feel whatever you feel, even if that’s relieved. It’s ok.
Now that the situation has a name, it’s time to start learning more about it. This will take time. Some parents rush headlong into research. Others need space at the beginning to let it all sink in and feel their feelings. But at some point, it’s important to make sure you, as the caregiver, understand what the diagnosis means, what the treatment will entail, and what the future outcome goals are that you will be working towards.
Start by asking questions. This is an important part of learning. You may need to ask the same question multiple times before it’s truly clarified. That’s ok. Having a partner or friend as a support system can help. They can take notes, remind you of questions you had, and be that second set of ears hearing and processing the plan.
Prioritize Healthy Boundaries
This can start by setting limits on how much time you spend online googling. The internet can provide a wealth of information, but also become a deep, dark hole. Limit when and where you go online for information, and rely primarily on your team of medical professionals.
Do not neglect your other relationships. Spouses, partners, other children, friends and family still need you too. Make sure you are spending time with everyone in your circle, and especially time with the child getting treatment doing things completely unrelated to their therapy. Then lean on others. Let your inner circle be there and help carry some of the load.
Lastly, “Put your mask on first.” Self-care is also vital. If you are not rested, healthy, and fulfilled, you cannot be the support and provide the care your child needs. Take the time to care for you too.
Focus on the Big Picture
It’s so easy to get lost in the details. But remember to step back and look at the big picture. This amazing child you love and care for is still the same amazing child after receiving a diagnosis. Nothing changes that. This is a new door, leading down a new path, but you and your child are still walking it together. There will be good days and bad days. Milestone successes and set-backs. But with a diagnosis, you are empowered for the future, because you now have answers and can create a plan and move forward.
At the Speech Pathology Group, we understand the nerves and anxiety that accompany diagnosis day. Many of us have been there personally on the receiving end. We get it. Our goal is to provide the safe space for you to process the diagnosis, get the answers you need to the questions that arise, and partner with our families to provide the therapy services that will lead to a brighter, healthier, future.