How to Talk to Kids About Limb Loss
If you’re the parent of a child with limb loss, the prospect of sending your child to school, camp, or daycare can be overwhelming. We don’t have to tell you what it can be like out there, and no doubt you remember trials when you were in school. Things haven’t changed. The fact is, kids can be cruel, even to children without apparent differences. However, they can also be incredibly compassionate and protective.
How will your child cope with being on their own in a new environment? How will other students, and even their teachers react? How can you protect them from the teasing and insensitive comments you know will most likely come their way? The good news is you are not alone. Many parents have faced the same challenges. (Read this parent’s experience in a previous blog post.) There are very effective steps you can take to smooth the transition and help ensure your child has a positive school experience.
Prepare. First of all, prepare yourself. Trust your child’s strength and resilience and know you will overcome any obstacle, just as you have up until now. The more positive you can be, the less anxiety your child will have. Then prepare your child. Talk about what the first days in their new environment may look like, and what they can say and do when faced with negativity or insensitive comments. Stress all the positive experiences that lie ahead and the control your child can have, starting with their own self-acceptance and understanding how special and strong they are.
Educate. Before your child even crosses the school threshold, talk with the principal and teachers about him/her – not just the physical differences but your child’s unique strengths and personality. Know what supports your child will have, and what necessary accommodations will be made with an eye toward inclusion rather than separation. Consider asking to have a few minutes the first day of class for you and your child to talk to the other students about their limb difference – how it happened, what their pediatric prosthetics are and how your child uses them, and who your child is – what they like, what they don’t like, their favorite food, color, activities, etc. Then ask their class if they will help educate others in the school, because not everyone will know or understand what they do. You may be pleasantly surprised by the empathy and support that results in true acceptance of your whole child.
Celebrate. Your child is unique, and their pediatric prostheses are an extension of who they are. Encourage them to put their personal stamp on their prosthesis. Consider customizing your child’s prosthesis with images of their favorite character or activity. Here at Next Step, we have Transformers and My Little Pony fabrics available for customizing kids’ prosthetic limbs, or they can bring in their own fabric with any design they choose. When other children see your child embrace their uniqueness, they will take the cue and embrace it as well.