Most of a child’s learning and development will occur in the walls of our homes. It is important to teach our children about differences while they are young. Research has shown that by teaching children about differences, it allows them to process differences and develop appropriate and accurate views about people who have differences.

Discussing Differences to Your Children

When do you Teach Children About Differences?

There are two different perspectives on talking to your child about differences.  One is talking to your child who has a disability and the other is talking to your children about others who have a disability.

Both conversations are very important to have with your children at a young age.  Talking to your child about their differences can help them process and better understand why they learn and do things a certain way. On the other side, talking to your children about other kids’ differences helps decrease biases and makes differences less scary and unknown.

What to Say to Your Child About Disabilities and Differences?

Talking about differences or disabilities can seem like an awkward and uncomfortable thing to do.  When talking to your child that has some differences, here are some things you can say to get the conversation going.

“You think differently.”, “Your challenges don’t define you.”, “Everyone has strengths and challenges.”, “It’s okay to talk to me about it.”, “A disability is a difference”, “I know you’re trying hard.”.  While this isn’t a comprehensive list, they are just a suggestion to start the conversation.

Pointing out reasons why they might learn, act, talk, move differently than others can help them come to terms with their differences and not feel negatively about them.

When talking to your child about other people with disabilities or differences, take natural opportunities that will come up.  Children naturally notice differences all around them.  By talking about it, it helps them process and develop appropriate responses to those differences.  For instance, if your child notices someone who is in a wheelchair and they ask you about it, use that opportunity as a teaching moment.

Don’t be shy or embarrassed to explain what is going on.  You can say, “Some people need a wheelchair to get around.  They might look a little different, but they are just like me and you!”  By explaining what is happening, your children will know that you are willing and open to talk about differences.

Other Ideas to Talk About Differences

One great way to naturally talk about differences to all children is through play and reading books.  There are many amazing books that beautifully illustrate and feature children with disabilities and children who look differently.

This is a great natural segway to talk about differences and to highlight how we are more similar than different. Talking about differences and similarities is one of the most effective things we can do to break down barriers for people with disabilities.  We can change how our children view them, and how they view themselves.  This can allow for a brighter future that focuses more on how we are alike than different.

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