How to better communicate with a child about blindness?

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Part Two: Responding to questions from visually impaired teenagers about blindness and about sighted children of visually impaired parents

This material is the second part of an article on how parents, both sighted and those with vision problems, can correctly explain to their children the many nuances of being blind or visually impaired.

So, in the first part, we figured out where the biased attitude towards disabled people originates, using people with visual impairments as an example.

Now let’s discuss an equally important issue:

How to talk about blindness specifically with a blind teenager?

Adolescence is one of the most difficult periods in life not only for children but also for their parents. All because, at a younger age, children largely rely on their parents, and for them, they are the main example and life guide. The difficulty is that teenagers are slowly starting to realize themselves, developing their own system of views and beliefs, which leads them to approach questions about the reality surrounding them and about themselves more fundamentally. And blind children are no exception.

Therefore, the moment when a blind teenager begins to reflect on his condition and asks himself, “Why am I not like everyone else?” is inevitable. It’s good if the child interacts with others, and is accepted in the group, including by sighted peers. Then it will be easier for him to accept his condition and learn to live with it.

It’s not uncommon for visually impaired teenagers to be left alone with these complex thoughts, and sooner or later they come to the conclusion that it’s not just happenstance, and someone must be to blame for what happened to them. Naturally, the first “suspicions” often fall on their parents. Who else, after all?

The situation is further complicated by the fact that parents may not immediately understand what’s troubling their child’s soul, as teenagers might keep their feelings to themselves and not share them with their close ones. On the other hand, parents may reasonably believe there’s nothing to worry about—they’re doing everything to ensure everything is okay with their child.

However, if you are a parent and notice that your child has become withdrawn, it’s better to try to find out what’s bothering them by engaging in a calm, trusting, and respectful dialogue. Trying to forcefully “extract” the information should be avoided—it will likely not end well. Remember—respect, trust, love, and understanding are universal keys to any person.

How visually impaired parents explain blindness to their child

Another important issue, of course, is how visually impaired parents explain the nuances of blindness to their child if their offspring does not have visual impairments. 

It’s clear that the initial period after a child’s birth will pose some challenges for blind mothers and fathers, but until the child starts walking, taking care of and watching over them will be relatively straightforward.

The first serious issue may “arise” when a child starts attending kindergarten. There, other children will inevitably notice if there is a boy or girl with somewhat unusual parents. The child might easily be laughed at.

Therefore, until about the age of five or six, the mom and dad should closely monitor how their child is treated at the kindergarten, find out what questions they are asked, and of course, try to instill in their child a firm belief that blindness is just a feature of their parents, which, although sometimes needs to be acknowledged, does not make them or the child any worse.

Of course, this idea should be conveyed gradually and carefully. Only then will the child learn to accept their parents appropriately, not feel ashamed of them, and not deny them despite their disability. This approach will also prevent self-esteem issues in the child.

It’s also important that within the family, the topic of blindness or other visual problems is not off-limits. The child should understand that there is nothing shameful about these issues, that nobody is immune to them, but they are not something to fear, and even as a visually impaired person, one can live a happy life.

One common parental mistake is to hide their visually impaired circle from their child, fearing that interacting with their blind acquaintances and friends might traumatize the child’s psyche. However, such interactions are unlikely to cause harm; rather, they will reassure the child that people with visual impairments are perfectly normal and not much different from others.

And of course, it’s important from a young age to make the child understand that they are a support and pillar for their parents and should help them when needed. This is relatively easy to achieve: children are generally very sensitive and will likely often offer help once they realize it’s needed.

In conclusion, it’s important to emphasize that parents should, of course, discuss the issue of blindness with their children. This should be done very carefully and thoughtfully to ensure the child forms a clear view of the world without labels, clichés, and misconceptions. Also, remember – such discussions should start from a very young age.

As a result, everyone will benefit: both parents and children can live a truly full life, accepting either their own uniqueness or the uniqueness of their parents.

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