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Handling awkward situations

6 Tips for Responding When People Are Insensitive About Your Child’s Learning and Attention Issues

By Lexi Walters Wright

38Found this helpful
38Found this helpful

Do you feel like you constantly have to explain your child to people? Use these tips to respond to insensitive comments and questions about your child with learning and attention issues.

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Offer short, relevant explanations.

Sharing a little information about your child’s learning and attention issues can be a good thing. But giving too much detail can be confusing. Use plain language and offer a basic description of your child’s issues. Only offer labels for your child’s issues if you think they’ll be helpful or clarify questions.

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Point out your child’s strengths.

Letting people know that you’re working on what they perceive to be a “problem” for your child may reduce their insensitive comments. When you point out her strengths, those abilities—as opposed to her weaknesses—begin to define her.

For example: “Isla has some attention issues. But she’s quite the soccer player because her motor is always running!”

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Acknowledge their interest.

Imagine a parent you know stops you at the library and quietly asks how your daughter’s therapy is going. You might feel touched that she cares about your child’s progress. Or, depending on how well you know that parent and how she asks, you might feel like she’s being nosy or gossipy.

A simple, “It’s going well, thanks for your interest” can be a polite way to stop a conversation in its tracks, regardless of who’s asking.

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Put off explanations.

Now pretend the same exchange happened at a PTA fundraiser: You’re standing with lots of other parents you don’t know well, and a parent you do know loudly asks if your daughter’s been making progress with her reading skills.

If you don’t feel comfortable sharing information with the whole group, it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “You know, I’ve been meaning to call you. Can we catch up tomorrow?”

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Skirt the issue when appropriate.

How you decide to handle your child’s learning and attention issues is a private matter—just like any other school and medical decision you make for your child. Regardless of how well you know someone or how politely they ask, it’s up to you to decide what you’re willing to share.

For example, a friend emails you a link to an article about a new ADHD pill. She writes: “Have you considered medication?” It’s absolutely OK to respond, “We’ve looked at a lot of things that might help her. Thanks.”

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Become Mama or Papa Bear.

Sometimes even well-meaning people cross the line when asking or talking about your child. As a parent, you are your child’s No. 1 advocate. Sometimes you have to go into protector mode.

In those cases, consider saying, “Thanks for your interest. She’s our daughter, and we’re going to deal with this ourselves.”

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About the Author

Portrait of Lexi Walters Wright

Lexi Walters Wright is veteran writer and editor who helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Elizabeth Harstad

Elizabeth Harstad, M.D., M.P.H., is a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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