How to Build Confidence in Your Neurodivergent Child

Jun 01, 2023
How to Build Confidence in Your Neurodivergent Child
As the parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you know it can be challenging for them to feel proud of themselves and their talents. Learn why good self-esteem is essential for neurodivergent kids and how parents can help boost it.

If you’re a parent, you’ve no doubt encouraged your child when they’re down about being on the losing soccer team or getting a “C” on a project when they worked for an “A.” That is difficult enough for kids and teens if they’re not neurodivergent, but if your child is on the spectrum, boosting their confidence may seem even more challenging.

We know it’s critical for kids to feel like they are talented and believe in themselves. 

When a child is neurodivergent, however, they often have unique challenges when it comes to feeling good about themselves. But what can you do as a parent to make them feel more sure of themselves?

Dr. Amy Carnall and Cristina Sertway, CNP, offer help to neurodivergent kids and their parents, and that often involves helping a family navigate a world that doesn’t always recognize the unique talents and qualities of children with an autism spectrum disorder or Asperger’s, a type of high-functioning autism. 

The challenges that neurodivergent kids face

If your child is on the spectrum, their communication and social skills may be mildly or greatly impacted. Either way, that can make social interaction — especially meeting new people or participating in class — difficult. And yet, as a parent, you know that your child will be facing these situations their entire lives, so it’s essential to set up confidence-building strategies now. 

If your child has challenges fitting in with their non-neurodivergent peers, it can be a huge blow to their self-esteem, and as we know, certain periods, like adolescence, see children wanting to blend in with their peers even more. 

Kids who are on the spectrum have a difficult time with self-confidence. That can set them up for becoming isolated, challenge-averse, self-critical, and more.

A parent’s essential role in boosting their neurodivergent child’s confidence

Fortunately, there are steps parents can take to help their neurodivergent kids feel better about themselves.

1. Nurture your child’s natural interests

If your child absolutely loves dinosaurs, go on a fossil-hunting excursion or watch Jurassic Park together. If they love to watch things grow, help them set up a garden. If their passion is animals, arrange for them to help at an animal shelter. 

By capitalizing on what they already feel passionate about, you’re setting them up for success.

2. Frame their diagnosis as a positive as well as a challenge

You and your child know that neurodivergence poses challenges, but remember to talk to them about the special strengths it imparts. These include approaching a problem or situation in a nontraditional way and expressing their thoughts honestly. In fact, many traits considered negative can also be flipped so that they become strengths when contextualized another way. 

3. Recognize and celebrate success

It helps your child to remind them when they do something great, whether that’s acting in a school play, acing a test, or having fun at a sleepover. Simply saying “Way to go for doing something new!” or hanging their artwork in your office does wonders for their confidence.

4. Give them agency

Letting your child make as many choices as possible (but not to a degree that will set them up for frustration) naturally helps them feel better about themselves, more capable, and in control.

5. Love amplifies self-worth

You might think that since your all-out love for your child is a “given,” it doesn’t necessarily impact their self-confidence. On the contrary, the more your child knows you’re in their corner — unconditionally supporting them and cheering them on — the more they’ll feel empowered, self-assured, and enthusiastic about showing others, and themselves, what they’re capable of. 

Confidence is essential for neurodivergent individuals to feel they’re talented, worthy, and included. When parents use these building blocks to strengthen their neurodivergent child’s self-esteem, they can build the resilience needed to forge healthy relationships, find fulfilling work, and follow meaningful pursuits.

We’re here to help you and your child grow and thrive, and we do this by creating a treatment plan completely customized to the needs of your family. 

Call the Clarity Psychiatry Care office to make an appointment so you can discuss your neurodivergent child’s realities and parent them mindfully and lovingly. You may also use our convenient online booking tools to set up a consultation.