✦ When you are a parent or pregnant for the first time there’s a lot of things you ask yourself about how you’re going to raise your children. There are even a lot more pointed concerns and questions when you’re a parent with a disability.
The most important one that popped into my head was how am I going to explain my physical disability to my children. I was aware that eventually, they were going to ask questions, because children are naturally curious, and their peers would start asking about it too. Being a mum of three, I found that I get more questions about my disability from other children then I do my own.
Yet, from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I’ve always been conscious of the fact that my children would want to know about my disability.
I decided to meet this head on with my children and be honest with them right from the start. We’ve never really gotten to the point where they ask me specifically about my disability because I talk to them about it on a daily basis.
At the end of the day, honesty is the most important thing with children, and the reality is, that my disability is a part of my everyday life and affects how I interact with my children on a physical level. It’s a part of my identity as a person, and as a mother. There’s really no avoiding it and that is how I’ve approached explaining it to my children.
Start from a young age
From the age of one, I explained to my children that their mum has a little bit more difficulty doing certain things compared to their dad or the other adults in their lives. I remind them of my restrictions daily, not just as a way of normalising my disability and its impacts, but to also to teach them empathy.
I explain to them why I can’t do certain things in a way they’ve seen other adults do, because I was born a little differently.
I take care to explain to them about those tasks that are just too hard for me and why only dad can do that with them. This allows my children to be sympathetic to other people that may not be able to do those tasks either.
It’s not always easy, especially when I have other parents asking me questions as well, but it’s very important for me to normalise my disability. I mention it to my children every day, not in a detrimental way, but just as a reminder that I’m is a little bit different and that they can’t expect some things from me physically that they get from other adults. So far, it has worked out really well.
My kids are very understanding, and they’ve never really brought attention to the fact I’m different. By explaining my disability in a way that embraces differences, my children have been positively affected, according to their day-care workers.
There was a little girl in my daughter ‘s class who had a disability and according to the workers, my daughter was one of the few children who engaged the most with her. Hearing that makes everything worth it.
I know that as they get older, they’re going to face more scrutiny from other children in regard to my disability. Unfortunately, it’s just the reality of the world. However, I also make sure that when I pick them up, if one of the other children ask me why I walk the way I do, I stop and take the time to explain it to them. I say “Everybody is born differently and sometimes; it means that your eye or hair colour is different or the colour of your skin. Well, for me, it just means I walk a little bit differently.”
The children seem to accept this explanation quite happily. Sometimes, I wish I could educate the parents just as easily. I still overhear many times, children asking their parents why I walk that way and their parents just hushing them, reinforcing the idea that disability is something that should not be talked about. We should be taking the time to explain disabilities to children and thus normalising differences, no matter what shape or form they come in.
My children are aware that I’m different, but they have never once used the word disability when talking about me and that is my main goal. My disability is a part of me and is something I will never be ashamed about when talking in front of my children.
It doesn’t define who I am
It is very important to reinforce that as well. No matter what way you choose to discuss your disability with your children, mentioning it regularly and explaining its impacts is very important. Empathy and sympathy are learned behaviours and by being honest about your restrictions and how your children should go about dealing with them, it helps them be more open to other people in their lives with disabilities.
I can honestly attest to that in my children’s interactions with others. It’s important just to be honest, that’s all children really need to grow into understanding, accepting adult people.
Author: Deaire Pecora (Brand ambassador disAbility Maternity Care)
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