Parents: Time to Have THAT Talk with your Kids...

No, not the one about the birds and the bees, etc. This is one that shouldn't be put off until after your child goes to playschool, head-start, or any pre-school tot-group they might be headed for.

I'm referring to a chat with your kids about other kids that are 'different.' When they get to group play of any kind, they may encounter kids who are in the middle of cleft-palate repair or other necessary reconstructive surgery for readily apparent facial or other noticable abnormalities.

This is something that parents don't often take into consideration when 'socializing' kids. I remember my first encounter, as a grade-schooler, with a little boy going thru cleft-palate repair. He had a 'mild' cleft, apparently not intruding into the nostrils, but just up to it. Not ever having seen anything like it, and since it seemed to eminate from his left nostril, my unformed and uninformed cause/effect logic figured that it was the result of nose-running.... lots of snot, in other words. As I remember, I did way more nose-blowing than necessary for quite awhile.

When I was in Junior High, and a bit more sophisticated about birth defects, I was standing in line at the nurse's office for some reason, behind a nice kid named Jerry. His birth defect was one of missing fingers on both hands....3 on one, and 2 on the other. I was cool with it, but the girl behind me literally began screaming and pointing and demanding to know what happened at the top of her lungs. I shushed at her, and when that didn't do anything, I punched her really hard on the upper arm. She then began screaming at ME, and of course I got in trouble. As I remember, I didn't mind that too much, especially after I explained what happened.

All this is leading up to the plea - don't wait to chat with your kids about physical defects among their peers, both current and future. Kids that would never physically bully another child often don't think a thing about joining in on the ridiculing of a kid who is 'obviously different.' I think there is a bit of fright or apprehension about this cruelty...that maybe laughing or ridiculing it will ward off the same thing happening to them. When they don't know what causes it, it's hard to judge what reaction to have. You can do your part in explaining that sometimes, not very often, [God/mother nature, whoever] has caused the baby to be a little bit different when they were in 'their mother's tummy' and that it's unkind to make them feel bad about something they could not help.

Of course, if the ridiculing kid is a teenager, you've way missed the boat, but do your best. To my mind, the perfect time is the first time your child has his feelings hurt, because it's the perfect time for him (or her, of course) to relate to the pain they might inflict.

The little girl in the picture? She has extreme scoliosis...click on the pic for a good article. Love your kids, keep them safe, and do please keep them nice.

1 comment:

  1. This is a good article and so true, we had a situation a few years ago where my son just stared and was creeped out by a poor girl who was missing one of her arms. Another time he completely was astonished when he saw twins for the first time and said "Dad, they have the same face"