Some parents struggle deciding whether or not to tell their child they are neurodivergent. This is especially true for parents whose children are diagnosed at younger ages. For me personally, not telling my kids wasn’t even an option on my radar; but that’s just because of who I am. I am fairly impulsive and pretty much an open book about everything, whether I should be or not. For other, more thoughtful parents, there are a lot of points to consider.
There are good arguments for both sides. On one hand, telling a child they are autistic, have ADHD, or whatever their diagnosis might be could leave them with a social complex. They might see themselves as “other,” or even “less-than” their peers. It might lower their self-esteem. Or, it might lead them to use their diagnosis as a “get-out-of-jail-free” card in the game of life. On the other hand, many neurodivergent kiddos already feel like they don’t fit in with their classmates. Understanding their neurological differences and the reasons for them, could help them feel better about themselves. It also could help them to be better able to seek out like-minded friends. Also, there is always the risk that a child who isn’t told about their diagnosis early on, will eventually find out, and then be resentful for not being informed.
I am not here to judge parents either way. Every child is different, and every family is unique. I firmly believe no one should judge anybody else’s parenting choices, because we cannot understand their personal circumstances. Frankly, it is nobody else’s business whether parents choose breast or bottle, stay-at-home parenting or daycare, homeschool or public, charter or private… or whether they tell their child they are neurodivergent or they don’t.
All I know is what I have learned from my own personal experience with my ADHD diagnosis. My parents never had the choice to withhold or share my diagnosis with me, because they didn’t know I had one. Nobody had ever heard of ADHD when I was growing up. I didn’t discover I had it until this past year, and it isn’t anyone’s fault; but I really, really wish I had known sooner. I feel that it would have made my life better.
All my life, I had been really hard on myself. I would mentally condemn myself for the things I felt I “should” have been doing. The things I struggled with, in my mind, were evidence of my personal failings as a human. I had no idea there were good reasons why I struggled with certain aspects of life; or that there were strategies and methods available to help me.
Learning I had ADHD completely changed my self-esteem – for the better. Suddenly, I understood why I am the way I am. Rather than focusing on all the things I felt I couldn’t do right; I started to recognize all the things I have been able to accomplish despite my challenges. I was finally able to cut myself some slack and see myself in a whole new light. On top of that, knowing what the problem was allowed me to know how to start looking for ways to compensate.
Knowing my diagnosis helped me find solutions. Because I now knew that I had ADHD, I was able to educate myself about it – and to learn ways to be more successful. I learned about bullet journaling – which is helpful for a lot of ADHDers, and I got on medication that helps me to be more focused. I also learned how to use some of my special ADHD attributes, like my ability to hyper-focus, to my advantage.
My purpose is not to prescribe what choice any parent should make. As I stated earlier, every person and circumstance is unique. What would have been best for me absolutely might not have been best for someone else. I would never dare to try to determine for anyone else what decision they should make in their own situation. However, knowledge is power.
I hope that sharing my story helps others to make an informed decision. Whether you are battling with this choice, or know someone else who is, perhaps knowing my experience will be helpful in some small way. I like to try to consider important decisions from every possible angle, and get input from as many sources as possible. There is only one piece of advice I have.
I do have one suggestion for parents who currently don’t feel it is best to tell their child about their diagnosis. I think it is important to have a plan in place regarding when you will tell your child. Consider what criteria you will use to determine that your child is ready to know, and how often you will re-evaluate.
Watch your child for signs of low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. I had struggled with all three for most of my life. However, my doctor informed me that many people who have undiagnosed ADHD are usually being treated for depression, anxiety, or both. He also told me that some people, once they get their ADHD under control, no longer need their medications for the other two issues.
In the end, all parents want what is best for their kiddos – trust your gut. Nobody knows your child better than you.