Growing up school was hard because I had a craniofacial condition. However the period that I always dreaded was not math or English, like some would think, but lunchtime. Now some of you may ask “why did you hate lunch?” Well to be completely honest, I hated lunchtime because it was the time during the school day where I felt different the most.
We all know that the Lunch period is focused on two things and those are 1) Friends and 2) Food. However, what do you do when you have a child who is different?
As an adult, I’m very confident in my difference. However, I was not always like that. I can now see, looking back, that my feelings of insecurity prevented me from missing out on some pretty awesome things about school. But that doesn’t have to be the case for your child.
Children with craniofacial differences face many obstacles within school from academics to sociability. Nevertheless, by working together with your child you can strategize and have a successful school year. Here are a few things that will help if you find your child is suffering from the lunchtime blues.
- Let your child know that it’s completely normal to feel different. Because let’s face it, kids with cranio-conditions are different. Nevertheless, remind them that difference does not mean less or even better, but that different is just different. Help them to embrace their difference and discover ways to accentuate their facial difference. For example I have hemi-facial-micro-somnia, which means my face is asymmetrical so growing up my mom would put my hair in these funky hair style that would draw attention away from my ear and face. Even in times where I had surgery and had to wear bandages around my head my mom was super cool and purchased fashionable scarfs and bandanas to match my outfits (thankfully bandanas were in back then lol.
- Talk About it! One thing that helped in school a lot is when my mom sat with my counselors, teachers and explained to them the condition I had and why I looked the way I did. Sometimes my teachers would even let me talk to my class in the beginning of the year about my condition. This helped so much because it removed the barrier of assumption. In being proactive and answering question first it can cut down on teasing and uninformed statements.
- Make room for transparency! This is so important because it gives your child a choice over their feelings. During adolescence, especially the early tween years your child can be going through a range of feelings and emotions and it can be quite difficult to decipher through. Adding a cranio-condition on top of that can amplify those feelings. Some days your child might express feelings of anger, or insecurity, or even jealousy. Talk about those feelings and where they come from and help them to confront them and compartmentalize.
- Get a game plan. If your child is new to school or program you need a game plan to help them adjust? Be real with them and prepare them. Create strategies that will help them immerse into the crowd or classroom instead of drawing away. Encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and do something different. Joining a club or sport that is feasible is great way to meet new people.
- Last, but certainly not least, always remind them that Lunch time and making friends can be hard... it’s a work in progress. However, I can confidently say being friendly and kind never goes wrong. Sometimes in order to gain friends we have to be open up to others. Start by asking a question. Ask to borrow a pencil, bring up a new movie you just watched, or sing your favorite song. Find a commonality and work your way from there. And what I have learned overtime is that true friends always stick around they won't see your difference. They will see you from the inside out!
As you go back to school and you begin to feel that pressure of trying to fit in and look like everyone else, dare your child to stand out and rock their difference.