Some parents never receive unwanted attention, while others have told us that they came up against intrusive questioning about why an arm/hand/finger is missing, but dealt with it in a matter of fact manner.
In the words of a Reach child:
‘Well Mum, its a bit like being a celebrity – some days you feel like it and some days you don’t’
The impact of unwanted attention depends on how we actually feel and how much else is going on in our lives.
We would say that dealing with this type of attention starts early. Lots of parents expect it and prepare for it, and are then pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen as often as they feared.
Here’s what some of our parents have to say:
“I wasn’t sure if we had to explain or not in the early days. For people I didn’t know at all, I didn’t explain anything. Sometimes I felt a bit insecure if people were looking in the pram and I was always prepared for an inappropriate comment.”
“I think sometimes people don’t even realise.”
“For us the best way to deal with it has to be very open, matter of fact and not to explain too much.”
“We use humour now that Chloe can be part of it…. a shark bit it off works well!”
Other parents found it quite challenging but developed a range of responses.
“I would initiate a conversation with children because once they had had a chat and were told it didn’t hurt they would no longer be bothered.”
“At first I hid the issue so no questions were fired, and now if someone asks I confront it and tell them he was born like it and we don’t have a reason. Unwanted strangers attention gets ignored.”
There does seem to be a divide in that some Reach parents will offer explanations to children but not to adults. Adults are seen as old enough to know better. In most cases it is Reach parents who feel varying levels of annoyance rather than the children themselves.
But whatever you say, remember that your child learns from you, so try to react calmly and give a measured response. Your reaction can have as much impact on your child as the questions itself.
Great Ormond Street has a great booklet that you might find useful. It contains information about helping and supporting children who have a facial disfigurement. Much of the emphasis is on birthmarks, but the information and advice are relevant to all children who look different. Click here for a download, different_face_families_booklet.
Our members Facebook group is a good place to ask other parents how they handled questions from both children and adults. It’s a private group so a great place to ask your own questions.
Another excellent place to look at and contact is Changing Faces who offer superb resources for children and parents to help them through these psychological issues.