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