Celebrating a World of Differences
Here are some common questions and answers that came up at Meg Zucker’s “Don’t Hide It, Flaunt It: Celebrating a World of Differences” talk.
1. What is the most important thing to remember when parenting a child with differences? You have to let go of your fear of not having the “perfect child” (whatever that means), and also let go of your need to control and orchestrate his/her life to manufacture perfection in them. While your child is entitled to your protection and support for his/her basic needs, do not coddle or overprotect him/her. Doing so will likely stifle their ability to eventually navigate through life as an independent and confident adult.
2. How can we teach our children to embrace other people’s differences? If you know your family will be invited to meet or spend time with someone with any type of visible difference, do not warn your children in advance out of fear that they will embarrass you with an unexpected outburst. If you do, you are likely to create in your child anxiety toward the unknown and the person they are about to meet. Children by their very nature are curious. Allow them to ask their (often loud and bold) questions so they can naturally discover the person is a “someone” and not a “something.”
3. What are some ways we can foster self worth in our young children? While it is certainly healthy to initially expose your child to a variety of activities to determine whether they have an interest, avoid a scenario where your child’s involvement becomes less about them and more about you. You know who you are—you’ve probably enrolled your child in a popular sport or activity because you feel like you can manipulate and control their interests and even friendships. What we really need to ask, however, is what they have a passion for. Even small children can give you a clue early on. When it reveals itself, embrace it, even if it is foreign to you. Your positive reinforcement in any activity that comes naturally to them will promote confidence in your child, fostering their sense of self-worth.
4. How do you define true beauty? To me, true beauty reveals itself in those who finally understand the qualities they possess that make them shine. It is achieved by those who no longer let the judgments of others impact or diminish their sense of self-worth. Those people light up the room when they enter.