Help Your Child Gain Self-Confidence and Acceptance Through Understanding
Kids are smart. As a parent I am sure you can testify to that. Everyday kids do things that simply blow your mind, especially with how much they absorb and understand. This being said, by the time a child starts school, they can tell that they are different. Not knowing why can make it even harder on them. By telling your child about their disability, you give them not only words to explain what is going on, but also a sense of acceptance.
By refusing to talk about your child’s disability, they internalize that something must be wrong with them. Kids notice that when something isn’t talked about it usually means that that subject is taboo, which results in them internalizing ableism and self-hatred without even knowing why. By not telling your child about their disability, they are also still subjected to the same bullying and ableism that plagues society and the school-yard, but now without anything to make sense of it for them. They grow up thinking that something is wrong with them or that they aren’t good enough.
Here’s what you can do, and why:
- Keep Your Child Informed: Talk to your child about their disability. Keep it age appropriate, but make sure they understand what is going on with them. Whether or not your child can talk or communicate in a way everybody understands, assume they understand you and talk to them as you would any other child their age. It is their body and their life, so they deserve to know what is going on. Having words to describe what is happening, even if they cannot say them themselves, brings a sense of peace and understanding and makes everything a little less scary.
- Make Disability An Open Topic: If you, as a parent, can talk about your child’s disability like it is not something to be ashamed of, then your child will be more likely to feel the same way. Let them talk about their experiences with their disability and validate how they feel about it. Make sure they know that they can come to you about anything and not feel judged for being different. Answer any questions they have about their disability as best you can. This allows for growing self esteem and makes your child less likely to feel ashamed of their disability.
- Find Support For Your Child: Go online or out into the community and find somebody with the same disability as your child. Find adults and ask them about their experiences. Ask them what they would have liked their parents to know/do. Ask them about anything they think would help your child. Find somebody around your child’s age. See if your child would like to meet either of them. The adult can help them see that they can succeed and grow and give them somebody to look up to. A child of the same age could give them a companion who understands better than anybody else.
- Give Them A Say: When it comes to medical decisions like therapy or other treatments, make sure your child knows what is going to happen. If they are not comfortable with it, or don’t think it is a good idea, don’t force it. Your child knows their body more than anybody else. If they say that therapy isn’t helping them, or that a treatment makes them feel worse, take them seriously and see what you can do. Obviously children cannot make important medical decisions, but they definately should get a say. It is their body, and it is awfully scary if things keep happening to you and you don’t know why.
- Listen To and Support Them: Make sure your child knows that you are always in their corner and that you accept them and love them just as they are. Listen to them and take their concerns seriously. Allow for them to explore who they are and how disability affects them, and support them in doing so. Your child will really appreciate this, and knowing they can always count on you will be a great confidence boost.
By keeping your child informed and giving them a bit of say in their own life, you not only gain their trust and make certain they know you are in their corner, but you also help boost their self-esteem. And when a child believes in themselves and has the support and understanding they need, they can be so successful.