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Should I reveal disabilities of my son to my grandparents?

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a male company executive in my 30s, and I can’t make up my mind whether I should reveal my eldest son’s disabilities to my grandparents.

He was diagnosed as having autism with mental disabilities right before he turned 3. Thanks to my wife and people supporting us, he’ll start elementary school in April. He will still need a lot of support from that time on.

Honestly speaking, I hesitate to tell my very old grandparents about this because I’m afraid it might disappoint or upset them. I’m also not confident they’ll be able to understand his disabilities. I’m particularly concerned my grandparents will just label him as a disabled child, which will eventually harm the relationship between us.

I’ve already discussed this with my wife and agreed that we won’t take the risk of telling my grandparents, thinking they’ll find out about it sooner or later anyway. My parents also have the same opinion.

However, I can’t help but feel guilty about hiding this fact when I see them.

Y, Osaka Prefecture

Dear Mr. Y:

I can only imagine how you and your wife felt when you learned about your son’s disabilities. I think it must be very hard to take care of your son, and I admire how hard you work for him day after day. And because of this, it’s all the more sad for me to hear you can’t make up your mind about whether you should hide his disabilities from your grandparents.

You write that you’re concerned your relationship with them might worsen if you reveal this to them. However, in my opinion, the point is whether you’re confident in accepting whatever reaction they have. Frankly, I don’t know whether your grandparents will be understanding, but I want to tell you that the most appropriate time for you to tell them is not up to them. Instead, it should be when you feel like you’re ready to accept their reaction, whatever that might be.

To get to that point, I want you to keep this in mind: We are born because we are needed in this world. Parents need not worry their children’s very existence may disappoint someone.

You and your family have been supported by a lot of people, likely because they are sympathetic to you and your wife as the two of you have been working hard to raise your son. I do hope you won’t forget that many people are willing to stand by you and your wife.

Masami Ohinata, professor

(from Jan. 5, 2018, issue)Speech

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