Children say the darndest things, don’t they? Have you ever had your child not-so-quietly ask why the man behind you in the grocery line looks the way he does? Did you just wish there was a trap door beneath your feet so you could have easily escape the situation?
You’re not alone. Many parents have faced this situation. Because it’s so common, we reached out to family and child therapists and asked them how they recommend we react in this situation. We also asked them to share their thoughts on how we as parents can teach our children about disabilities beforehand.
This is some of their advice.
Don’t Overreact to the Question
Megan Rigdon of Sunny Day Counseling said, “The first, and probably most important, would be to let children ask questions. When your child sees another child who has a physical or mental disability, they will be curious. They may ask, “Why is that boy being so loud?” or “Why can’t that girl move her arms?”
Your instinct as a parent will be to hush your child for fear they are being rude. However, this is harmful to your child’s development.
Children are taking in a constant stream of information from the world around them, and they need to learn. Let them ask questions, let them look at the child who has a disability, and educate them at their level of understanding, or allow the guardian of the child who has a disability to educate.”
Teach Them to Be Respectful
Tonya Miller of Swinton Counseling said, “When we are respectful of others, we can’t go wrong! Some disabilities are visible, (like being in a wheelchair) and others are invisible (like autism). It’s one hundred percent okay for kids to ask questions about people who look or behave in unfamiliar ways. When respect is the bottom line, these questions can turn into great opportunities to talk about values and individuality.”
Teach That We All Have Our Differences
Andrea M Peaslee of Meridian Counseling Center said, “Everyone is different and we should teach our kids– no matter how a person differs from us, we still are to love and respect them. Some people’s’ differences are more visible than others. This principle can help with a child’s self esteem. Kids need to understand that even though we are all different and have flaws, we are still lovable and accepted. This concept frees us from feelings of shame and sadness that we all struggle with at times.
It is OK to be different. It is OK to not be perfect. No one is and that’s OK.”
Content Compiled by Salt Lake Social Security Disability Lawyers at Summit Disability Law Group
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