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Key things you can do from the start

Photo: There are lots of ways you can support your newly-diagnosed child's mental health.

"Love, praise, communication and being there for your child are the most important things. Involving your child in family routine is important, too."

Samria attended our Happy Futures workshop for parents

The biggest influence on a child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing comes from their family. It’s very common for parents of deaf children to focus their energies on helping their child to develop language. While language is important, it is just as important to a child’s emotional health and wellbeing that they feel loved, supported and included regardless of how they communicate.

Even if you are still learning to communicate with your deaf child, there are lots of easy things you can do to support your child’s mental health and emotional wellbeing right from the start.

Play for play's sake

Make time to enjoy a visual game with your child or children. Don’t worry about language or vocabulary learning, just enjoy spending time together. Imaginative and pretend play is a great way to help children learn about emotions and how others feel.

Include everyone

All children like to feel included, but in families with a mixture of deaf and hearing children, it can be easy for either hearing or deaf siblings to feel left out. Try to make sure everyone feels included in everyday routines. For example, when sitting down for family meals, try to make sure all your children are involved in the conversation. Deaf children may prefer to eat first and talk afterwards, so encourage their hearing siblings to stay seated after they’ve finished eating so that they can continue the conversation. If your deaf child has a lot of hospital appointments, explain to their hearing siblings that this doesn’t mean they’re getting different levels of attention. Taking hearing siblings along to one or two appointments might help to show them that going to hospital isn’t a special treat, and can actually be quite boring!

Making sure everyone in your family is treated equally where possible helps children to develop a positive sense of self, and helps to avoid tension between siblings. You can learn more tips for raising deaf and hearing siblings here, or visit YoungSibs for mental health support for siblings of deaf and disabled children.

Don't let deafness be an excuse

With the right support, deaf children really can do all the same things as their hearing siblings or peers. Setting the same expectations for your deaf child as you would for a hearing child will ultimately help to boost their self-esteem and deaf identity.

You may have fears about whether your deaf child can cope with new experiences. Families magazine is full of stories about deaf children and young people successfully handling new challenges as they grow older. Make sure you’ve signed up to our free membership offer to receive the magazine.