What To Do When Your Child Doesn’t Like How She Looks

February 23, 2014 — 11 Comments

I often see parents posting about that dreaded moment. That moment when her child notices that there’s something different about her…and she hates it.

How are we to react in that moment?

Giving parenting advice is tricky. There’s no one “right way” to parent and I get that, so these are just my thoughts; take them with a grain of salt. For one, you’ll never hear me tell anybody how they should or shouldn’t think or feel.  Especially parents.  If your child’s newfound discovery and reaction makes you feel sad or guilty or angry and confused, I get it.  Those are reasonable feelings to have.  I’d like to be an encouragement to you, though.

I can only speak for myself, but I know many other limb-different adults who would agree…if I ever got angry or sad about my arm at an early age, I have no recollection of it.  None.

When our children are small, we help to shape how they think.  I remember when my kids were little, if they fell, I’d cheer.  They’d peer up at me with a look of surprise on their face, like, “Wait…I think I’m hurt.  Shouldn’t you be freaking out?”  And there I’d be, clapping and yelling, “Yay!  That was awesome!”  Then they’d pop up and carry on.  I’m sure you’ve experienced what happens when you gasp and cover your mouth and shout, “OH NO!”  The kid sees YOU freaking out, so THEY freak out.  I’m not a therapist, but I think it’s the same with this situation.  Your little one gets angry and sad about his hand and if you indicate to them that, yes, it IS a raw deal, they’ll carry that with them.  On the other hand, so to speak, if you allow them to feel what they’re feeling, but encourage them to view it as something positive, I believe that can shape their perspective, too.

I’m not speaking about older kids here, though.  Once a kid is older and has obtained more cognitive skill of their own, that’s a whole different ballgame.  That said, show me a teen who likes everything about her physical body and I’ll sell you a unicorn.  All kids, boys and girls, deal with body image issues as they grow-up.  And we parents muddle our way through the best we can.  I assume.  I have three who will all be teens at the same time in seven years.  Please, start praying for me now.

A few years ago, a bicyclist hit my daughter. Her face took the brunt of the impact and we ended-up in the emergency room; still one of the scariest moments of my life.

I still have this picture on my phone, years later. Reminds me to cherish every moment.

I still have this picture on my phone, years later. Reminds me to cherish every moment.

Once we knew she’d be ok, my thoughts turned to her appearance. Anna is breath-taking.

See what I mean?

See what I mean?

I was worried, not for me, but for her, that she’d have scarring. I was devastated. I didn’t want her to have to deal with the questions and pointing and staring…so, I’m familiar with the feeling, both as the one being stared at and the parent of one going through the same. It’s not easy, I know.

We prepped our other kids to treat Anna normally when she returned home and they did an admirable job. But, Anna was still sad and somewhat scared when she looked in the mirror. It was heartbreaking. But, eventually she got over it and everything was fine. In my experience, that’s usually how it goes. Especially for kids with a noticeable difference. Some days are a drag, but most are uneventful. We get used to it.

So, ultimately, what’s my advice for that moment? Feel however you feel, but remember that the likelihood of your child even remembering that moment later in life is slim.

My assumption here is that dealing with zits is going to be more difficult.

Godspeed and good luck, my friends.

Photo credit to my good friend Jessica Mundt of More Than Just Pictures.


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I'm a husband, a father, an author, a speaker, a friend...all kinds of things, actually.

11 responses to What To Do When Your Child Doesn’t Like How She Looks

  1. Hi Ryan,
    From your personal experience and experience talking to others, at what approximate age does this “moment” typically happen? Thanks for all you do for the LOH community!

    • It seems like it’s around school age…maybe 5 or 6? Once they start being around other kids and begin to compare and contrast. I think one of the biggest things is to not hide or ignore the difference, but acknowledge it, and then focus on the overwhelming similarities they have with other kids. Thanks for asking and I’m glad the LOH has been helpful! It means a lot to hear that. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the post, since you asked for comments I’ll add my 2 very unprofessional cents, when our daughter was almost 3 she asked when her little hand (she has a little palm surface and no fingers) going to grow to look like everybody else ‘s, there was that moment and you could tell she was down about it. We told her what we understand to be true, that she was going to have her little hand for her whole life, that’s how Jesus made you and it’s just one of the many things that make you special and unique. She has embraced that truth and is a confident little 6 year old today. Just the other day my wife was teaching the kids about Jesus being resurrected and mentioned we’ll be resurrected to some day and our bodies will be perfect and healthy and all the lost hairs on Daddy’s head will be found and mentioned to our daughter and you’ll have 2 big hands. She became quiet and when we asked what was wrong she said I don’t want to ever lose my little hand, then my wife and I start crying so grateful, we assured her that I’m sure Jesus will let her keep her little hand. I do know all kids are different but that’s our little girl and hope it helps, like Ryan said I dread the tweens and teen years coming up but I hope she continues to carry the conviction she has, thanks for all your blog we love reading it and our girl loves your videos

  3. Katie Kolberg Memmel February 23, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Good thoughts, Ryan… I like how you describe how you reacted when your children fell down. Your reaction can trigger a child’s reaction. So true. Good perspective from a dad who knows. 🙂

  4. I am an adult without my right forearm. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, Ryan. My piece of advice to parents is not to make comments on the limb unless the child brings up the subject; just let them get on with life. Facilitate those things which are needed without fuss and maybe even without comment. My Dad facilitated things I didn’t even ask for or complain about. He observed and acted where he could e.g. our rotary pencil sharpener suddenly turned up attached to a lightweight aluminium plate and I always had a horse with a soft mouth and a good attitude. Best wishes to you all.

  5. Thank you, Ryan. Your words are always inspiring. I am a 24 year old woman, born without my left forearm, often wondering about how exactly parenting will go for me. And I won’t lie, I’m hesitant to even commit to the idea of starting a family. You always inspire me. In relation to your post here, I have my parents to thank for such a happy childhood. It hasn’t been since adulthood that I’ve questioned what life could have been like if I were born with two hands. I miss the innocence of childhood.

    • Thanks for sharing, Laura! I’m glad what I’ve shared has been helpful and an encouragement to you. Excited for your story to continue to unfold. 🙂

  6. I’ve read this several times today and cried each time. I’m so glad you chose to share this – it is such an encouragement to me. My daughter is about to turn 3, so we aren’t there yet, but I have been dreading it, and I feel like maybe I can let go of that dress for right now.

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