Coming to terms with your child's diagnosis

This information applies to England and Wales.

Finding out that your child is disabled or has additional needs can take time for you to adjust. There’s no right or wrong way to feel and everyone reacts differently.

How are you feeling?

You will experience a range of positive and negative emotions. It can take time to work through these.

A diagnosis can sometimes help. It may help you understand your child's condition better.

You may feel guilt about your child’s condition, impairment or additional needs. This is a common reaction and it can take time to come to terms with.

You may find it difficult to talk about because you’re scared of being judged or blamed. Sometimes it can be too hard to talk about or you feel there’s no one who would understand.

Help with negative emotions

Reading about or watching other parents share their experiences and feelings can help.

When you feel ready, sharing your own feelings with someone can help. Parents often find the most useful support is from talking to parents of a child with the same condition.

Emotional support for families of a disabled child

You could also try:

  • reading or writing a blog
  • watching other parents' video channels
  • visiting online communities and parent forums
  • calling a helpline
  • talking to your partner, family or friends
  • going to or setting up a local support group
  • talking to a counsellor

Try writing your feelings down if you do not feel comfortable sharing them.

Sometimes changing your routine, joining a new club or taking up a new hobby can also help.

Support groups for parents

Worrying about the possible cause

Try to focus on the positives rather than worrying about what caused your child’s difference and why. Look at what your child can do instead of what they cannot. Knowing the cause will not usually change your child’s needs, development and right to support.

Your doctor may be able to tell you the cause but it can take a long time to find out, possibly years. Sometimes doctors will not be able to tell you the cause or why it happened.

Focus on your child, not their condition

Every child has different likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

Try not to compare your child to others. Focus on your child as an individual.

Enjoy the good days. Celebrate the achievements or highs, however small. These experiences may not be what you were expecting but they’re just as important.

Take a day at a time

Plans can be helpful but they can also cause unnecessary pressure. You can start to feel overwhelmed with everything you need to do. Sometimes the smallest thing can be a tipping point.

Try to be flexible if you can. You might not manage anything on your 'to do' list. But you can do other things instead. Your child might be having a bad day and dealing with this is all you can manage.

Look after yourself

Getting some rest, looking after your mental health and asking for support can help you and your family manage.

Managing mental health

If you can, try taking a little time off. Try relaxing by:

  • having a bath
  • going for a walk
  • watching TV
  • reading a book or magazine
  • catching up with friends

Managing your stress as a parent of a disabled child

Finding respite care


Communication is important for your mental health and emotional wellbeing. It can be the difference between feeling isolated or overwhelmed and being supported.

You may find it takes some time to talk to friends and family about your child’s condition. Do everything at your own pace. There is no right or wrong way to do it.

You may also find it hard to talk to your partner about your feelings, fears and worries. Talking to your partner can help you to support each other better and understand each other’s feelings.

Talk to our online community and get support from advisers or other parents.

Research your child's condition

You might find doing research helps you to understand your child’s condition, impairment or additional needs. Every child is different. Some of the information you find may apply to other children with the same condition but not yours. Bear in mind that not all information online is by experts.

To find information that relates to your child:

  • talk to other parents about what they found useful
  • ask your doctor for any recommended reading
  • search for relevant voluntary organisations and charities

NHS conditions pages

The charity Contact has an extensive A to Z of conditions. There's information on support organisations, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment.

SWAN UK (syndromes without a name) supports families of children and young adults with undiagnosed genetic conditions.

Find local support services

Your local authority should provide services to support you and your family. This is called the Local Offer in England. These vary between local authorities.

Find your local council (GOV.UK)

Last reviewed by Scope on: 30/08/2023

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