If you are a parent, you know how difficult it can be to explain the intricacies of life to small children. When they ask us why the world is round or why space is so big, we stumble over the answers because even as adults, we don’t always know. So, when we get asked awkward questions, it’s usually easier to avoid the answer than try and find an explanation. The trouble with that, is that unless we teach our children and answer the awkward questions, how can we expect them to learn?
When it comes to teaching about disabilities, parents go one of two ways. The first is to avoid the question and scold a child for asking out loud. The second is to allow your children to go and speak to the family in question and ask. Children are wonderful creatures who are accepting and inclusive of everyone regardless of what they look like, but questions always arise when they see someone looking different to themselves. Of course, no two parents will teach their children the same way – and that’s okay. But as parents, we need to step up and be honest where we can, in a child-friendly way. It’s for this reason that when the questions get asked, whether it’s about the size of space or not, we need to be brave as parents and respond properly.
It’s very easy to make mistakes when it comes to discussing disabilities and why people are different. Some people are in wheelchairs, some have profound difficulties that require constant care. Regardless of the issue, we need to be open, honest and brave in our replies so that our children can learn how to be appropriate in their questions. We all know that children tend not to have a filter when it comes to shouting aloud about certain issues. It can be so difficult not to trip over your words and know what is acceptable to say, so we’ve got some ways you can teach your children about different disabilities.
Encourage Curiosity. Okay, so we’re not suggesting you point to someone who is in a wheelchair and ask your child if they know why, but it’s important that you don’t get mad when they ask a question loudly in public. It’s lovely that you don’t want to offend anyone, but making your child feel like they’ve done something wrong only fuels the differences they can see. Smile politely at the person that they are asking about and wait for a sign of encouragement to respond appropriately.
Raise Awareness. A great way to teach your children about the differences between people is to hold a fundraiser for a particular condition. If a child in their class at school has a disability, perhaps raise money for a cause related to it using ideas at http://www.the-fund-raiser.com/five-tips-hosting-candy-bar-fundraiser/. Not only is it a fun way to hold an event, it’s a great way to explain what the disability is.
Celebrate Differences. One of the hardest questions to answer is ‘why’ from a child. If yours has pointed out someone who has a disability and has asked why it’s happened, counter the question with one of your own. Ask them why you have a different eye colour or hair colour to them. There’s no right answer to that question, it’s just nature and responding that it’s okay to be different is perfectly acceptable. Different doesn’t mean bad, it just means not the same. Explain that if we were all the same, the world would be a boring place to be!
Adopt A Poker Face. Children soak up our reactions and form their own opinions based on how we react to something. Controlling your reactions to someone else who has a disability is very important, as your child will pick up on that reaction. It’s natural for an adult to feel awkward about answering questions, but the way your children view disabilities will come directly from the way you handle them yourself.
If you need a helping hand to explain disabilities to your children, perhaps reach out in a way of literature. These books are fantastic tools for children to learn about others in their way and on their level. Parenting is a massive responsibility and you want to be able to have your children feel secure and happy. They will rely on you for answers and raising yours in an environment that celebrates differences means that you are an amazing parent, not a prejudiced one!