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When we discover our child is neurodivergent, many different emotions and thoughts arise.

Sometimes we get caught in grief about our child’s difficulty and worry about their future.

This is understandable. Our lives are full of expectations and things that we are programmed to believe “should” happen. It’s hard to let those go. The path we find ourselves on today is different than we expected. It seems less certain. And, to start with, more lonely.

Sometimes we get drawn straight into the battle against the systems and become “warrior sent parents.”

This is understandable. The systems we find ourselves create obstacles, barriers, and frustrations. It is easy to get pulled into fighting an adrenaline-fueled administrative war. And it’s hard to back down when our child’s education and health feel dependent on jumping through the endless hoops – “just one more step,” we tell ourselves. It feels productive and purposeful.

While both of these reactions are valid and true, they are also distractions away from what really matters – our presence with our families.

What if we could just stop? What if we could just breathe and take some time to follow the gentle journey of air in and out of our bodies? What if we could slow down all of our thoughts and reactions? What if we could just focus on ourselves? Even for just moments among the chaos?

What if we could learn self-compassion? What if we could put emotional boundaries around the expectations and demands from those outside of our home? What if we could figure out how to keep our energy banks in credit despite all the pressures on us?

Maybe we would discover that all our beliefs about what life “should” be could shift. Maybe we could discover that society and its values and norms are just the dominant story, and are no more valid than any other ways. Maybe we could discover a new “me” under all those layers of narrative, or rediscover our true selves that have been buried by social conditioning and unhelpful beliefs.

Could we discover how to create peace within our nervous system and how to share that with our child? Could we learn to be in such deep presence with our child that they sense our connection and feel safe enough to step into their true selves? Perhaps we could see the education system differently. Perhaps we could value health and well-being above education and the false promise of clambering up the social ladder.

Perhaps we could create the space to sit with our fears and uncertainty and learn to trust the unfolding of the unknown. Perhaps we could embrace the adventure and become the best version of ourselves. Perhaps we are at a threshold, beyond which life becomes simple and true and light and spacious. Maybe here, we will find peace and happiness for ourselves and our neurodiverse family.

And all without a sniff of behavior modification, coercion, or control.

Photo submitted by Heather Parks

Originally published: December 8, 2022
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