Let’s face it, parenting is hard.
I know this all too well. In addition to being a therapist, who specializes in working with children and families impacted by a diagnosis such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I too am a spectrum parent. Most of my clients wonder how I am able to manage it all. While I truly love what I do, and yes the tools I have learned in my own educational and professional journey certainly help, it was honestly my own work in therapy that helped me the most and gave me the skills to navigate the challenges that show up when raising our amazing children. This is also why I shifted in my private practice to work more with parents of children on the spectrum or with an ADHD diagnosis. The challenges families face can be so hard, and lead to what I call “survival mode parenting.” This is not sustainable and impacts how you act and feel as a parent but also how your children act and feel in the family. This is why I decided to pursue further education and extensive post-doc training in MFT (marriage and family therapy).
As parents of neurodivergent kids with a diagnosis of ASD or ADHD, we become their advocates, spend countless hours researching best therapy practices, calling school teams, finding the right medical providers, locating the specialized therapists, and trying to turn over every stone to find the right fit for your family and your child’s needs. If you are reading this and connecting to the exhaustion and countless hours spent trying to pull it all together for your family, please know you are not alone and you are clearly an amazing parent doing the best you can with the resources you have in place.
However, in order to thrive in this neurodivergent parenting journey, seeking professional help for yourself, the parent, may be necessary at some point to help you be the best person you can be when you show up as a parent for your child and family. This is ok, to need some help too. This is really hard, and I get this.
Here are 3 ways that therapy for you, the parent can help, if your child has a diagnosis of ASD and/or ADHD.
Processing the Diagnosis
You may have just received a diagnosis of ASD or ADHD. Maybe you and your family have lived with the news for a while. Either way, the diagnosis can be really hard on parents, and accompany some trauma or grief with the news. Not only this, but it can sometimes take up to a year or more of seeking out the right professionals or being on a waitlist to receive the evaluation. Just the waiting in itself and not knowing what you suspect as a parent can be so stressful in itself. This time of waiting or even knowing the diagnosis and trying to process it can lead to feelings of anxiety, guilt, grief, depression, and excessive worry about the future. However, diagnosis or not, the grief that accompanies knowing that your parenting journey is going to look a lot different than you how you had imagined for your family is very, very real. Having a safe place, with a trained therapist who gets this and can help you process this grief is so very important and essential for your own well being.
Parent Coaching and Parenting Skills
Parenting a child with ASD or ADHD looks very different than parenting a neurotypical child. Often parents come to me to also balance how to raise their neurodivergent child and their neurotypical child, often describing the real issues of parenting differently for both children’s individualized needs. Parenting for ASD and ADHD can include creating behavior plans in the home, considering sensory processing issues, coordinating IEP’s and 504 plans for school, medical interventions, safety concerns, and therapy decisions to make. I always say “what’s fair is not equal.” Together with a trained therapist, you can learn some skills to help support you while you adjust your parenting to meet the needs of all your children. This can help you reduce the feelings of overwhelm, empower you as a parent to meet your children’s needs, and give you a space to process your own feelings that come with parenting your ASD or ADHD child. Learning ways to manage the stress, maintain your own self-care, and learn ways to restore some peace and balance to your family is essential. Therapy can help support you while you navigate these experiences.
Supporting the Parenting Partnership and Couples
I often hear and see in my work, how the diagnosis of ASD or ADHD can impact the relationship of the parents or partners. Research shows that parents of children with special needs can have a slightly higher divorce rate. This is likely due to the stressors being higher and with all the focus and attention on helping your child, it’s natural to experience less time and energy for your relationship with your partner. Having a therapist who understands the stress and feelings of overwhelm that come with parenting a child with ASD or ADHD can help support the parents to stay connected. Whether you are together, separated, or divorced, your children need you to co-parent, support each other, model healthy communication and be on the same page. It’s not easy, but with the right supports in place, therapy can help your family stay loving, connected, and thriving.
As always, if you made it this far, thank you for spending your valuable time reading this post. If you would like to reach out to discuss how ABC Behavioral Services can be of support, please contact me for a free 30-minute phone consultation.