NOT many parents, especially those in third world countries, knew that they were going to have children with disability and so they were completely unprepared for what was coming. The situation is worsened by the many unfortunate beliefs and myths surrounding disability. In some cultures, having a child with disability presupposes that God is punishing the child’s parents for the sins they committed in the past. The child therefore becomes a constant reminder of his parents’ horrible past. As his parents grapple with the process of raising a child with disability, the child himself will notice as he grows that he is not the same as everyone else. This knowledge will lead him to begin to wonder why he can’t see, run, talk or understand as fast as others do. He will in no few times require an explanation from his parents. Mothers will most likely be asked these questions frequently. You need to understand therefore as a parent that you may never be able to provide good enough answers to those questions no matter how frequent they ask them. But this is in no way saying that you should keep mute when they utter their confusion about their substances.
As the parent of a child with disability, it is true that you are in a difficult spot. However, you are not there alone; even at a more difficult spot is that young child who is unaware of the many challenges he needs to overcome in the future. Your determination should therefore be to help raise that child in the best way possible and as God grants you strength, resources and initiative. Even a child who doesn’t have any disability looks up to his parents to show him that there is a place for him in this world. You cannot possibly do that if you regret the child’s coming. This is so because your child will see through you. To help your child who has a disability, you need to know much so that you can do much. You need to have adequate knowledge about the peculiarity of your child’s challenge. The first step to helping your child build positive self-esteem is to pursue knowledge. This has become very easy with the help of the internet.
One of the many challenges, and I dare to say the foremost children living with disability will have to deal with, is that of self-esteem or, better put, ‘self-acceptance’. Your biggest challenge will be bringing your child to that point where he sees and agrees that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with him in spite of his disability. To achieve this, you need to start in time. Children are born with clean slates. This means that they come into this world knowing nothing. They will only grow to take the form of their environment and the predominant conversations they hear from others about them in and out of home. Your child needs to see the world and his life in the most beautiful and inspiring way just like God made it to be.
The conversations at home must be such that doesn’t present the child’s condition as a burden to the family he is born into. Children as we know need to hear, know and see that they are loved. Speak the right words to your children whether or not they are living with disability but especially when they are. Your child must hear from you repeatedly that their disability is not their fault and that it doesn’t make their life less. Another healthy step that you should take as you seek to help your child make the best of his life is to introduce them to the loving personality of God. We cannot successfully navigate life in the absence of God’s divine presence. In fact, His presence makes our burdens light. Children are fascinated by the idea of a great God in the heavenlies. You would be doing them good if they get to learn about God on time.
While these healthy conversations are ongoing at home, you have to remember that there is a cruel world waiting for them outside. You have to prepare them to face the world outside the confines of your sweet home. They have to hear from you that there are people out there who don’t care about their struggles and are willing to laugh at them and even ridicule them. When they meet such people, they must not let their words or actions hurt. The people who laugh at them are only reacting to life the best way they know how. Their happiness shouldn’t be hinged on other people but should spring up from within. You can provide them with possible answers and action tips that they can use if they find themselves in a difficult situation. Never allow your child to be bullied.
You will be doing your child no small good if you help them discover their areas of strength and create opportunities for their strength to be expressed. If the child has an artistic gift or finds pleasure in doing something and does it well, be his biggest cheerleader. Don’t make his disability a reference point and when they are frustrated with themselves, be there to be their shining light of hope. Let them know of everyone who has possibly lived an effective life with a disability. If the child’s disability allows him to read, introduce him to the world of great books. As his imagination is awakened, creativity will flow seamlessly. Your child also needs a healthy perspective about failure and human limitations. Whether or not a person has a disability doesn’t remove the fact that there are a lot of things we want to control and do but we can’t because they are beyond us. Failure in itself is only an opportunity to try again another way. When your child fails as he tries to do things, teach them that giving up is not an option because they truly fail when they refuse to try again.
In all of this, you have to create and maintain open lines of communication with your child. Be discerning about your child’s personality and watch out for possible red flags.
- Bisong, a legal practioner and executive director of Busaosowo Foundation, writes in via [email protected]
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