In an ideal world, the people you love would always be supportive of your child’s learning and attention issues. Family would be sensitive to your child’s needs when they see him. They would ask tactfully about his progress in school and the resources he receives. Friends would check in with you and offer ongoing support.
“You don’t have to apologize for wanting to stop rude people in their tracks.”
Sadly, some parents find that their family and friends aren’t as supportive as they would like. In most instances, that’s simply because they don’t understand your child’s issues. Or maybe they refuse to take his diagnosis seriously. They might see how your child talks or acts and make snap judgments. Or perhaps they loudly (and unfairly) judge your parenting.
The Disappointment of Unsupportive Friends and Family
When family or friends say insensitive things or try to interfere with your parenting, you can feel a range of emotions:
- “They’ll never understand who my child truly is.”
- “They have the wrong idea about this common learning (or attention) issue.”
- “I thought other kids might be hard to deal with. But I didn’t expect adults to be so insensitive.”
- “I’m disappointed our relationship wasn’t as strong as I’d thought.”
- “I thought I meant more to this person.”
Ways to Handle Unsupportive Friends and Family
Feeling stung by backhanded comments about your child? Fed up with unwanted questions—or people who deny your child’s learning and attention issues? Consider these options:
Inform them. If not knowing about or understanding your child’s issues is the problem, try to gently educate your friend or relative. You don’t have to go into great detail about what your child experiences. Just give enough information for them to get a sense of how he is different and what your family is doing to support him.
- Find allies. Talk first with the people in your family or friend circles who are supportive of your child. These allies can then spread the word, with your permission, to people who might be less sensitive.
- Talk one-on-one. Speaking with someone personally makes it easier for you to have their full attention. And then they can ask you questions directly.
- Give your child a script, too. Work with your child to come up with a short explanation to offer when someone is being insensitive: “I do have trouble staying focused, yes. I’m working on that with my resource teacher. But you should see me on the soccer field!”
- Confront them. If insensitive comments continue, it’s OK to be a little firmer. You don’t have to apologize for wanting to stop rude people in their tracks: “Thanks for your interest in Noah’s condition. But he’s our son and we’re going to deal with this ourselves. We’d appreciate if you didn’t talk about him anymore.”
- Avoid them. When all else fails, try not to interact with an offensive friend or relative. Instead, try to spend more time talking with people who recognize and appreciate your child’s strengths and the progress he’s making.
And consider connecting with other parents in our community. You may find that their experience is similar to yours, and that together you can trade stories and tips.