At a glance
You get to decide who knows about your child’s learning and thinking differences, and how much they know.
Talking with others about your child’s challenges can help things go more smoothly.
Discussing your child’s challenges can help you find support you otherwise might not have known existed.
Deciding whether to tell other people about your child’s learning and thinking differences is a personal choice. Maybe you just want to talk with teachers and with your closest family members and friends. Or perhaps you want to make your child’s challenges more widely known.
Whatever you decide, keep in mind these six benefits of talking to others.
1. Having insight can help others support your child.
When people know about your child’s learning and thinking differences, they can better help your child thrive. This is especially true for the people who work with or spend time with your child when you aren’t around.
For example, you share with a babysitter that your child has trouble taking turns. The babysitter is now better prepared to help your child if playing board games with siblings becomes hard.
Or, let’s say you know your child melts down on long car rides but gets an invite to ride along with a friend to a soccer game. Tell the driver that it’s OK if your child listens to music with headphones the whole way. This can make the trip easier for everyone.
2. Sharing information can demystify learning and thinking differences.
Your child’s challenges are a private matter that you can discuss, or not. But hiding challenges may make your child feel as though there’s something to be ashamed of. And that’s not the case.
Depending on your child’s age, you can ask how much detail they would like to share about their learning and thinking differences. The same applies to the tutoring, therapy, or other services your child may receive.
It may be useful to script some scenarios together, too. This can help your child get a better sense of how these conversations might play out.
As kids grow older, it’s important to continue these conversations and respect their wishes.
3. Talking with others can help you feel less isolated.
Parenting kids with learning and thinking differences may add complexity to everyday routines. Not telling anyone what you and your child are going through may make you feel as if you’re carrying around a heavy secret.
Talking means sharing part of your life that people may not know. They may be curious. They may be understanding. They may be moved that you’ve confided in them. And your frankness may create a safe space where they trust you enough to share their challenges, too.
4. Getting a new perspective can clarify things.
“My best friend has no experience with what I’m going through,” you might think. “Why ask their opinion?” But even if you don’t believe a friend or relative knows anything about a specific choice you’re trying to make, they may know something that can make your decision easier.
Perhaps the friend you confide in can connect you with a family who’s been in a similar situation. Or maybe their questions lead you to an “aha” moment. In the end, that outside point of view may clarify your thinking.
5. Letting off steam may be good for your health.
Raising kids with learning and thinking differences can put parents under a lot of pressure. It can be tough on your marriage, on your relationship with your child, and on your relationship with other kids, too.
Sharing your emotions with others can help you stay calm when your child forgets their math book. Talking with a friend or relative can provide a breather and help you react calmly at home.
6. Opening the door allows for support.
Once people know what your family is experiencing, they may look for ways they can help you. Whether or not you ask them directly.
For instance, if your sister knows that therapy runs late on Wednesdays, she may offer to drop off a meal for your family. Or your best friend might choose the weekend after a stressful IEP meeting to suggest a movie date with you.
Your friends, relatives, school, and community are all rooting for you and your family. And while it may feel awkward at first, there are ways you can talk with other people about your child’s challenges. The more they know about your journey, the better they’ll be able to support you along the way.
Want to learn more about talking with others? Check out this episode of the In It podcast.
Sharing your child’s learning and thinking differences can give friends and family the chance to help you out.
People may be able to offer more support if they understand what you and your child are experiencing.
As your child gets older, it’s a good idea to discuss with them how much detail they want to share about their challenges, and with whom.
About the author
About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Mark J. Griffin, PhD has been a professional in the field of learning disabilities for over 45 years. He was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School.