Disabling the Fear

What should we be teaching our children about disability?

 

My daughter is at an age where she is curious. Very curious. As anyone knows with young children, there are no filters on them! I often chuckle at the questions she asks. However sometimes it can be embarrassing! For example, walking down the street there was an awful smell of manure the air. My daughter pipes up rather loudly “poooooo mummy that stinks. Is it that boy?” pointing to the teenager walking past us!

On a more serious note. While we were on holiday in Crete, my daughter spotted a boy around the same age as her and they began to play together. He had what I think is called strabismus, both eyes were turned inwards. She came to us and asked “Why does that boy keep looking at his nose, its a bit weird?”.

I have to admit, I was glad she asked us away from the boy and his family as I was conscious that such a question could’ve upset him. I tried to explain that his eyes have a problem with the muscles that control them but I’m sure he would still like to play together. She did continue to play with him. It was rather cute watching them try to communicate as he was french and we don’t speak any french other than a few simple phrases.

This left me wondering. What should we teach our children about people who look different? What is appropriate around the person they are questioning? To them that is all it is, someone who looks or acts differently to them. They ask so innocently and it’s just their natural curiosity about the world around them. But sometimes their questions can hurtful when they point out someones differences.

I certainly don’t want to hush my children and move them away. But this is usually the natural reaction, largely in an effort not to upset anyone. However I feel hushing implies that being different is wrong or embarrassing. This reaction may itself cause upset. I often wonder should she approach the family/person and ask them her questions, but then I fear this may be rather rude.

I think next time (because there will be a next time) I will start by not hushing her but either saying I don’t know why e.g he doesn’t have hands or if I do know, then explain the condition. Then I will tell them “it’s ok that he/she is different to you, maybe they would like it if you asked them their name or played with them”.

I want to encourage her to interact without being rude! I want my children to be inclusive not exclusive.

If you are a parent of a child with learning difficulties/disabilities or different appearances reading this, could you help me with this one.

How do you as a family cope with the reactions of other people around your child?

What is your advice to parents trying to teach their children about disabilities and differences?

I saw a pin on Pinterest which linked to a blog called ‘Bringing up Betty‘. The blog post linked has mum Courtney talk about her daughter Brenna, Brenna’s condition and how to respectfully approach a stranger who looks different. It helped me think about how to handle the situation but I’d love to hear what you all think.

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Great post – as it is tough to know what to say in these situations! Everyone is different & kids have a way of spotting the differences so quickly. I think your plan for next time sounds really good & encouraging. Thank you for sharing your post with us at #BloggerClubUK xx

  2. Oh I really struggle with this too. Kids are so innocent aren’t they and they just come out with things. Not quite the same thing, but I remember my eldest at about the age of three and a half remarking that a woman was very tall (she was) and when I agreed with her she went on to say in a very loud voice ‘Yes mummy, but she is unusually tall’ I wanted the ground to swallow me up.
    I’m not sure what the answer is in terms of children with learning difficulties or disabilities or look different. I think it is probably up to us to be open and honest with our children and acknowledge that there are differences and talk about it. I would like to know what other parents think though. It’s a tough one!

    #FortheloveofBlog

    • Absolutely, we don’t always have the answers. Often I feel I’m trying to come up with the next best answer. Often I will just tell her ‘I don’t know’. She often replies, ‘but mummy I thought you knew everything”!

  3. This is such an important topic and thanks so much for raising it. I’d also love to hear from parents on what the best approach would be. I agree with you and would probably say something similar. At such a young age kids are so innocent and our reaction as parents could make the difference to our kids’ reactions at school and later in life. Thanks for an interesting and thought provoking read xx

    • Thank you for your comment TopFiveMum. I hope it does provoke a conversation. I would love to hear from mums who have experienced this.

  4. Children are so good at spotting things that are different aren’t they. I like to think that people are generally accepting of children’s natural curiosity and don’t take offence. Its ourselves, as adults, who feel awkward. #marvmondays

    • I hope so Catherine and yes it’s us who feel awkward. This is part of the reason why I want to get it right, as they learn from our reactions.

  5. Children are so curious, and I think it is great to encourage their questions because by not allowing them to question it, I feel will make them think that it is wrong. My nephew is 7 and so inquisitive that his questions can sometimes be hard to answer. I agree that you need to find a way to explain the situation, but still encourage your child to be inclusive. A very thought provoking post #MarvMondays

  6. It can be so difficult as children are so curious. My 6 year old spends her whole time staring at other people, regardless of what they look like, and I’m trying to teach her to not stare but if she has questions to ask me when we are on our own. It’s important she feels she can ask and then I can help her understand how we are all special and different in our own ways! #marvmondays

    • Oh I have to tell my daughter not to stare too. Absolutely, they need to know its ok to ask. Sometimes in private its easier to give a good explanation. When in public sometimes I stumble as I’m not always great at thinking on the spot!

  7. I’ve had a few potentially embarrassing moments with my own children when they were a lot smaller and it really is hard to know how to react when they put you on the spot but you are so right. Thanks for linking up to #Picknmix

    Stevie x

  8. I recently had a similar experience with my daughter who got really scared the first time she came face to face with a black toddler her age. She’s only 19 months so didn’t really say anything other than ‘scared’ but it really got me honking about what to do when they pick up on things when people re different to themselves #MarvMondays

    • It’s difficult to approach it appropriately on the spot. With hindsight / foresight you can imagine what the correct way to approach would be but when on the spot sometimes you get caught off guard.
      I like to think most parents would be understanding of the reactions of very young children and hopefully not mind being approached to say ‘hello’ x

  9. I love this post, so thoughful and thought provoking. My little one is three and is at a ripe age for asking all sorts of questions out of innocence and curiosity. I have realised there may be a time where she asks a question about someone that looks different or has an obvious disability and how I might handle this in the right way. Like you I want her to be inclusive and not discriminate against other children or people that look or sound different to her and would love to find good approaches to parenting around this. Great post, thanks for sharing it on #MarvMondays. Emily

    • Thank you Emily for reading and commenting. Loving #MarvMondays and thank you so much for choosing this as your featured post. I like to think that most parents would be understanding of the outspoken nature of young children and wouldn’t mind being approached to say ‘hello’ 🙂
      Helen x

  10. Thanks so much for sharing for this for #marvmondays. Our son, Oliver was tube fed and that always attracted a lot of attention of either pity or disgust- mainly because people didn’t understand. I’d gladly talk to people about his condition and think it’s important for children to understand others. Through Oliver, our elder daughter Ella doesn’t bat an eyelid at people who are different to her.

    • This is exactly why I wrote the post, as it’s unfair you experience the pity and disgust. I’m glad to hear though that you would welcome people to talk about him. This reassures me that it’s ok to approach families my daughter may be curious about. I think its so important not to hush her and move on.
      Thanks for the #MarvMondays Linky and for featuring my post 🙂
      Helen x

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