Building a Bridge between Parents and Neurodivergent Children:

Raising neurodivergent children is not easy. What adds to the challenge is that most of the time neurodivergent children do not respond to neurotypical forms of parenting. This can make navigating how to support, raise, and foster your child’s growth (as a human being) very difficult. For the neurodivergent child who is trying to do their best in a neurotypical world, they are likely overwhelmed, exhausted, and filled with self-doubt.


Why neurodivergent kids and parents are so tired!

Raising an emotionally sensitive child who can easily express their anger can be a challenge for families. It can be exhausting for both the child, who likely struggles with executive functioning and suppresses their emotions throughout the day, and parents, who are seeking ways to help their child cope. For all these reasons and more it can be very draining on the family system.

When a family turns towards their community for help, they are often met with resources that are largely still geared towards the neurotypical brain. Leaving the family with more questions than answers. Therefore, without a great understanding of how to support neurodivergent children and their parents, it can be a very bumpy road.

Be the bridge

The good news is that there is a bridge that can make the ride a bit more peaceful. This bridge is based on empathy and understanding. Receiving support through a compassionate lens can reinforce a strong and positive bond that fosters resilience. 

For the helping professional

How to improve the bond between parents and their emotionally sensitive child:

1. Practice active listening and validate feelings

This means really listening to the child & parent with an open mind and repeating back what you understand them to be saying. It’s important to let the parent & child know that you understand and accept their emotions. Validating the challenge is equally important as it can often feel like no one else understands how difficult it can be sometimes. 

  • 2. Create a safe space for open communication: 

  • Make sure the child & parent feels comfortable talking about their emotions, thoughts, and struggles. This can be a tricky dance but is key in strengthen the bond the parent and child. *Note sometimes children and parents who are neurodivergent benefit from the use of visuals to support talking about their experiences. This also helps create structure in sessions and reinforce what to focus on. Bonus if you are able to include movement & creativity into the sessions as well. 
  • 3. Use positive reinforcement: 

  • Point out when the child and parent express their emotions in healthy ways, such as using “I” statements or taking deep breaths to calm down. This can help encourage positive behavior. Modeling and practicing this together weekly can solidify the new skill. *Reminder that the negative feedback that both the child and parent likely receive is largely disproportionate to positive feedback. Sometimes, your role is showing just how much you truly & genuinely enjoy working with them. 
  • 4. Seek support: 

  • There is A LOT to learn and understand about supporting the neurodivergence population that can be extremely beneficial in supporting families externalizing the challenges. However, I know it’s hard to keep up with all the latest research & trainings. Therefore, don’t be afraid to seek out support or consultation from a therapist or mental health professional who specializes in neurodivergence. This can provide you with strategies and tools to help you, the child & parent navigate this challenging dynamic.

Remember, every neurodivergent family is unique, and it’s important to approach each situation with patience, empathy, and an open mind. By building a strong foundation of trust and communication, you can help the emotionally sensitive child thrive and improve family dynamics.

For more questions or support: