How Do I Talk to my Child About Disabilities?
This post is the third in our “How do I talk to my child about?” series. We are covering bad language, disabilities, divorce, adoption, death, race, religion, and personal protection. You won’t want to miss these, so be sure to follow us by email on the sidebar and never miss a post!
I am sure we have all had moments when our kids stared just a little too long at someone because they were different. Maybe that person was in a wheelchair, maybe that person has a tic, maybe that person is missing a limb, maybe that person talks funny. And sometimes that stare is accompanied by an uncomfortably loud question. We’ve been there. But what do you do?
I personally don’t have a disability…well, I do have hearing issues, but for the most part, the average person I come in contact with would not suspect there was anything “different” about me. So I reached out to people who have first hand experiences. One was my mom who was born with a clef palette that wasn’t fully fixed until she was a teenager, and the other was a family friend who has a son who was born with a physical deformity. Both of them graciously shared their experiences and wisdom. For that, I thank them.
The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? – Exodus 4:11
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:14
I believe the first step for everyone, no matter whether they have a disability or not, is to realize that they have been purposely made exactly the way they are. God made each one of us on purpose, no mistakes. We, as parents, need to try to instill this truth in our children. There is not something “wrong” with a person if they walk differently, stand shorter, have trouble understanding metaphors, or whatever. It is simply God’s design for that person, and therefore, that person should be treated with respect.
Once you make it clear to your kids that God made each person beautifully, I think it’s important not to make a big deal about the disability. You can take a moment to mention it, but it would be better to remember that your child and that person are more like than they are different. So if you meet someone who is missing a leg, you can remind your child that God made that person is a special way, and then focus on how, despite the missing leg, your child and that person are very much alike. In this way, we can help instill a sense of unity with all people, no matter the differences.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
And if you have a child who has disabilities or your child has a close family member that has disabilities, I think it’s really important to stress to them that they are not alone. While it pains us as parents to admit it, there will be people who will single them out and choose to be nasty or rude to your child. And in those moments, it can be easy for your child to feel all alone, like no one understands, and that God does not see their pain. He sees. He feels it. And he put people in your child’s life that have gone before and after them with the same kind of suffering. So let them be encouraged by those around them that understand. Seek out people and information that can remind your child they are not the only one. And do it for yourself, too. God gives us each our own “brand of suffering” as my mom likes to call it. Our job is to endure it for God’s glory with the help of people who have gone before us so that we can strengthen and encourage those who come after us. We really are in this all together.
So the next time are in the company of someone with a disability, I hope that my sons will look on with love and respect for the human being that God has made them.