When a Child Is Different

2:55 PM Posted by Jo Pedranti

What is considered being normal and who is to decide who is considered different? Who set the rules to what is normal or not? Why are we even trying to categorize things into normal or not, instead of accepting that we are all different in one way or another? This goes further than just looking different, I've noticed the last few years that some people distance themselves from people that  don't agree with their views regarding religion, politics, or health.


Some people are very good at making you feel like an outsider today if you don't fit into their clique. Why should it matter if a person is Pagan, Christian, liberal, conservative, vegan, vegetarian, natural healer or a meat eater? Why do we need to judge or distance ourselves from others outside the group we associate us with? These attitudes are passed on to children. They learn that it is all right not to play with someone because that someone's parents  happen to believe in something different than their own parents. We teach the children to categorize their friends into groups.


Is fixing the ears the solution?
The story of a 7- year old girl that had a plastic surgery to correct her ears so she wouldn't be bullied touched me in more than one way. Unfortunately the link to the story doesn't work anymore.  What really struck me about this story is that most parents who read about this girl would have done the same thing to their child. They would have gladly taken their child to the plastic surgeon to have the ears fixed too.  I read the comments and hardly anyone of the parents addressed the real problem we are having today.  Instead they want a real quick fix so the problem will disappear, and their solution is to perform surgery to make the child look like everyone else. 




Acceptance, tolerance and self-esteem
It seems to be of very little concern to most of these parents that important topics such as ACCEPTANCE,  TOLERANCE and SELF-ESTEEM should be addressed. The main focus is to make a child look like everybody else so she can blend in. This will not solve the problem that some people are not accepting that someone is different. Frankly, we are telling the bullies that they are correct and can continue picking on people. It may be interpreted that the bullies were correct in bullying someone with big ears, I mean the parents listened and fixed the problem instead of dealing with the ignorance of the bullies.  We are letting the bullies win. We are also telling our children that we all need to look the same instead of focusing on individuality. The tragic thing is that many of the bullies were adults in this case.


You can't fix everything
Many children are not as fortunate as this little child and their problems are more severe and cannot be fixed with a plastic surgery. I read comments like "it is stupid to let the girl go through the torture in school so of course her ears needed to be corrected". Yes it is terrible and if you keep reading you'll learn more about my son's torture in school. What about children in wheel chairs, with autism, facial malformations, down syndrome, or chronically ill? There are not any quick fixes to their problems so should we just hide them so the bullies can't get to them? 


What are the kids watching on TV?
Am I the only one who sees a problem with the current school system and the kind of TV programs many children are watching? Most programs today are about people picking on each other and humiliating each other. I prefer older programs where you get a sense of friendship and people treat each other with respect. If you watch Tv you get the sense that the art of treating each other nicely seems lost. We as parents let children watch shows that do nothing else but showing people treating others badly. Why are we surprised when bullying is a problem in school? Grown ups watch reality shows where the main goal is to humiliate others, and they seem to forget to teach their children the importance of accepting people they way they are. 


Let's ask someone who knows
I know that you might be thinking that I have no idea how this little girl felt. You're correct,  I have no idea how this girl felt but I have dealt with a child that is different.  My 17 year old son was born with facial tumor on his face that cannot be completely removed. I asked him the following questions:


How would you deal with the situation if your child had big ears/looked different and was bullied in school?


Robin: First of all talk to the teachers to find out what they know about the situation and see how they can help (if at all). Make sure that the kid knows that 'big ears' are nothing to be ashamed of, etc...


What advise would you give a child that looks different?


Robin: Some people are just different. That's ok. Don't let other people get to you. In a nutshell: get over it. You wouldn't say it like that because that would be harsh but thats basically what the kid needs to realize.



Anything else that you want to add?

Robin: No matter what you say, the kid will know they are 'different' or have 'big ears' one way or another, so don't bother trying to hide it. Instead make sure that they know its OK to have 'big ears'. Help keep their self confidence up and teach them to be strong enough to know that some people out there will always question or 'bully' them. If the parents sympathize with the kid and allow themselves to feel sorry about the kid then the bullies win. Giving in to the insecurities does nothing but harm in the long run.

There are always going to be people in the world that put you down for one reason or another. Whether it is because you have 'big ears', dress weird, smell bad, aren't smart, or any other reason you have to be able to get over it. Move on and don't get hung up on it....Robin




Robin



First years 
The first few years of Robin's life were rough. He was bullied at day care at the age 2, and he was called names by kids too young to be in kindergarten. Everywhere we went people were looking and pointing at him. It became so bad that he at the age of three didn't want to leave the house and he was screaming and having fits and refused to go and play at various places. The worse were the adults and they couldn't hide their shock when they saw him. Robin was happy little guy and he couldn't understand why people didn't smile back at him. 





Don't feel sorry for the child
The situation got out of hand so I decided to go to a child psychologist to get some answers to how to deal with the situation. I didn't realize until I met the psychologist,  that up to that moment I had felt sorry for him and I hadn't done anything to increase his self-esteem. Well meaning relatives and family members always talked about his cheek and lip as soon as we met them. It was a constant focus on his looks which made the situation worse for Robin. 


Bullies are insecure
I followed the advise from the psychologist and didn't focus on his looks at all. As he grew older we talked about how bullies  are insecure and how they need to make other people feel bad in order to make themselves feel better. That's the way it is, some people are weak and need to put other people down, but don't let them. Anyone can be bullied for any reason and not just because someone looks different. Bullies smell insecurities and aim for the weaker persons. This is important to understand for a child who is bullied.


Boost self-esteem
We boosted his self-esteem and made sure he knew he was fine the way he was. This was done in a way without mentioning his looks of course. We never tried to pretend that his facial malformation wasn't there, but it was just never the focus.  We made sure he knew that it is fine to be strong and believe in things nobody else does. Robin became a strong individual that would wear clothes out of style just because nobody else did. He learned to stand up for his own believes even though nobody else shared them with him. As Robin said when he heard about the girl who fixed her ears, "Children have no self-esteem today."


People stopped asking
The turning point came when we moved to California when Robin was five years old. All of a sudden nobody asked why he looked the way he did. His American relatives and family never brought up that he looked different. His sister and brother don't even notice that he looks different and they have never asked why. It is just normal for Robin to be the way he is. All of a sudden he had tons of friends that never asked any questions or were bothered by his looks. 


Compensating
 Robin has always been very competitive and aims hard to do well in sports and academically. Perhaps it is to compensate for not looking like everyone else. It gives him self-confidence to perform well and learn new skills. He is also doing magic shows and he has been acting in informational videos his schools have made. If someone told me 15 years ago that Robin would be up on stage performing magic I would not have believed it. 




I am not an expert and I can only share what worked for us. The best you can do for your child is to teach them to believe in themselves and to accept others the way they are. Don't let the bullies win.


Johanna is an aromatherapist and an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils  She is passionate about educating people about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition so they make healthier choices in their lives.
Follow Johanna on twitter and facebook for more health tips and information.



This post is linked to:
Domestically Divine , WFMW, Monday Musings
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