How do you share difficult life changing news with a young child?
That’s a question I’ve been thinking a lot about since we received T’s FASD diagnosis in January.
The hubby and I shared the info with the school right away as it would better inform the way they supported T.
We’ve held off on sharing the info with T as it’s been a year of unexpected events and we didn’t want to add this on top of everything.
We’ve decided we will share his diagnosis this summer, as it is a less pressure time.
We also have three weeks off – can’t wait! – to spend with the hubby’s family and T’s favourite cousin, which can provide positive emotional cushion.
We believe that honesty is key.
From lived experiences shared by individuals with FASD that I’ve come across, they speak about how knowing their diagnosis helped made the world make sense to them.
This testimonial below by advocate Reinier DeSmit, who received his diagnosis late in life, moved me deeply when I watched it a year ago.
I consider our family very blessed to have received this diagnosis early on in T’s life. I feel deep in my heart this will benefit T, despite the hurt, confusion and anger it may also cause.
We will take a strengths-based approach.
From resources I’ve seen – see the links at the end of this post – it’s important to take a strengths-based approach.
We will highlight T’s many gifts: He’s a bright, caring, funny, strong, determined kid among many other positive qualities.
We will discuss that because of his diagnosis, he will need supports – such as why he’s had a CYW.
Where possible, we will use age appropriate tools, such as books and online games (see a great example below).
We will be upfront that we don’t know all the answers but reassure him – and ourselves – that we’ll figure it out together.
Knowing T, we will need to do this over time. We only get his attention for a short while, so we will need to do this in bite-size age-appropriate pieces.
Best case scenario, there is instant adoption and a positive reaction. Worst case scenario, anger, hurt, confusion and resentment. And of course, everything in between.
Regardless of the outcome, we will do our best to support him with patience and empathy.
We know this will be a difficult conversation(s), but it will be one of the most important milestones in our parenting journey with T.
Here are some great resources shared by our FASD service coordinator on how to take a strengths-based approach in sharing and helping a young child understand an FASD diagnosis.
- “How to Explain an FASD Diagnosis to Your Child” by CanFASD
- Brain Build Book – Part of a larger framework to help kids understand their assessment results.
- FASD and Me Interactive Game – An interactive comic that explains what FASD is, how it affects people and things that people with FASD have done to make their lives easier.
- FASD and Me Workbook – An interactive journal with activity sheets, inspired by Hope Myers, an individual with FASD, and her mother Miranda. Here’s the related Webinar for further viewing.
Do you have a recommended resource to add to the list above? Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.