Resisting Early Labels

As single parents, we are often all that stands between our children and the outside world—this goes for doctors, teachers, institutions, etc. While we are normally, or ideally all on the same side when it comes to doing what is best for our children, ultimately we parents have to be the strongest and most informed advocates. I am of the opinion that we live in such a label-happy world; it seems everyone is eager to assign labels to children (and adults) regarding whether they are ADHD, have learning disabilities, are gifted, or whatever. And all of this labeling is getting done earlier and earlier on younger and younger children. While I concede that it can be a good idea for “early diagnosis” for some things so that children can get early help, I also think that kids can get assigned a “label” when they are young, too young, that sticks with them for a very long time

While I think resisting early labels is an issue for all parents these days, I do think that single parents can have a harder time making sense of things. We are often hyper-sensitive to doing what is best for our children, achieving a sense of “normalcy” and being on the look-out for any problems that might develop. We can be susceptible to thinking everything is potentially a big problem. Starting when my own son was in preschool, teachers tried to suggest that he was ADHD and needed to be medicated. I just knew in my heart of hearts that wasn’t true. And, in truth, my son is not even close to ADHD and has never had, nor needed a bit of medication. He was a terribly typical 5 –year-old boy. He was not a 5-year-old girl (I had already had two of those so I could make the comparisons myself) and I had to learn how to focus on accepting his personality and advocating for him as a person—not giving in to labels and the “expert advice” of people who didn’t know my children as well as I did.

It is tough for a single parent, and at some point, our children may develop problems and issues that will need to be addressed—but I do think putting off the “labeling” and not letting other people tell us what our children are going to be like is important. It takes strength, courage, and a sense of balance that can be challenging for a single parent to access. Try getting second or third opinions, and talking with other parents for diverse opinions—by doing some of your own research and knowing your child well, you may be better able to decide what is best.

Also: The Trouble with Labels

Specific Learning Disabilities and Your Child