One of the most difficult things to do as a parent when you first receive your child’s diagnosis is to keep your “game face” together. This is the face that you are going to need to get used to wearing when your child is awake, when your child is near you, when your child begins to ask you questions about their hearing loss, or when strangers ask questions about your child’s hearing loss.
It is where you put on your best smile, blink back any tears that might be forming and begin to tell yourself, along with anyone else who is listening, how wonderful it is that you child is fortunate enough to respond to wearing hearing aids, a Baha (bone anchored hearing aid), or cochlear implants. And believe me it is a wonderful thing.
As hard as it is to put miniature hearing aids onto tiny ears; or to attach the processer onto the back of your infant’s head for the first time – you can’t do it while you are crying. Your child is watching you. They are watching your reaction the first time you put on this new equipment. What does your child see reflected in your eyes? Is it excitement and hope? Or sadness and fear?
I know if it’s not easy, but I also know that it is a skill that you need to get really, really good at.
DO practice your game face. Lock yourself in your bathroom and practice in front of the mirror, seriously. Try to keep your thoughts positive. When your mind begins to float into negative territory bring it back by taking a deep breath and focusing on the present. While it may not seem so at the moment, the identification of hearing loss is a positive step for your child and your family. As hard as it may be, tell your child how lucky he is to wear hearing aids or a cochlear implant so that his ears will get the help they need. Starting out with a positive attitude is one of the best things you can do. You want your child to view his hearing aids and/or other assistive devices as what they are: instruments to amplify sound so that he can hear better and participate more fully in family and school life. You don’t want him to absorb negative connotations about his hearing aids and to have him think he needs to feel sorry for himself for being different.
DON’T make a big deal about the diagnosis in front of your child. At this point your child has no understanding of being “handicapped” unless she is made to feel that way. Your child’s self-concept, or feelings about herself, does not develop in isolation. In the younger years she takes her cues from the feedback and reactions she receives from family members. If she sees you become tense or embarrassed about her hearing aids when in public spaces, she will begin to feel that you are embarrassed by her.
DO remember to keep things in perspective. One mother confessed that shortly after her son was diagnosed with profound hearing loss she found herself crying because she was certain that no one would want to go to the prom with her son if he had cochlear implants. Then she found herself laughing because her son was only six weeks old at the time and she realized how out of context her thought was.
DON’T forget to look after yourself. While it is normal to experience feelings of grief and sadness when your child is been diagnosed with a hearing loss, it is also important to recognize when your feelings become worse or if you begin to feel like you cannot cope anymore. Take the time to ask for a referral to an appropriate mental health care professional.