Teaching Our Children Kindness When a Friend is Different

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Back to school has arrived and many people have shared their adorable photos of their kids heading out to their first day. It is truly an exciting and nervous time for kids and moms. So many parents talk about this wonderful day with their kids and hear about who they played with or sat next to and how many new friends they made that day.

But what if your child didn’t?

What if your child came home completely heartbroken from the first day outcome?

What if your child is one who is seen as different or awkward to other children who simply do not understand?

teaching our children kindness when a friend is different

This is certainly an experience of a dear friend and her son.

Yesterday, I read something completely heartbreaking on Facebook about my friend’s son. He is a child that battles with the hardship of life everyday with a smile. A child who is kind, tenderhearted, and truly an amazing and strong boy for someone who has been through what he has. He is a true survivor.

At birth he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus. He wears glasses because he is nearly blind and a leg brace, but these things don’t keep him down. He loves all of the usual boy stuff and he and my middle son are also close friends.

He left home on the first day of school like every other child. Excited and ready to make new friends. However the experience at school was much different. After asking many children to play with him on the playground and being repeatedly turned down he played alone. He came home saddened, disappointed, and heartbroken at his attempts to make friends but only be rejected. To hear pain and see tears and attempt to define something that is not understandable and internalized to a child with disabilities includes a message of hopelessness.

feeling helpless as a mother

As moms and dads these are pure moments of helplessness. These are moments from a mother’s heart that leave us aching to fix what simply cannot be fixed. To hear and see sadness in your child is overwhelming. Imagining the heartbreak that they feel at such a small age is truly unbearable.

Kindness is missing in the teachings of children these days. It is our job as parents to relay these messages of compassion to our children. It is a life skill taught from the earliest moments. Children truly  learn what they live and are impacted by some of the smallest acts of kindness that you as a parent display. Whether you help someone in need with a door, offer a smile to a random passerby, or a kind word to a stranger these are ways you teach kindness. Fostering compassion to your children and teaching them kindness to everyone will navigate an empathetic and positive approach.

As parents this is our responsibility. Teach them what they do not understand and instill in them the best character skills possible. Disabilities do not define who someone is and do not prevent some of the best friendships your child may ever have. Give them a heart of hearts from the beginning.

It costs nothing to be kind and friendships hold a greater value than anything imaginable.

How are you instilling or discussing compassion and empathy to your children?

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  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says:

    Some kids are loners, like my son. He is perfectly happy to sit by himself or play alone at recess. He prefers it actually.

  2. My son has a close friend with the same thing. He doesn’t care about differences and I hope he always stays that way. This is a great reminder to make sure we all do that!

  3. It is so important to teach kids about different kinds of people. My son has really taken to a few kids at school who other kids have labeled as different. I think it is so sweet of him to get to to know them.

  4. TEaching kkindness is so important. As a former preschool teacher we focused on it.

  5. I certainly think that for the most part, kids who treat others unkindly learned it somewhere and it’s usually at home. We need a kindness movement and we need to remind adults and presidential hopefuls that it’s never OK to bash others for their looks or because they are different. Great read!

  6. I think teaching your kids kindness and acceptance is the most important lesson you can give them. Since my kids were little they were exposed to my friend, L who is disabled. She is a blind grown adult, but acts like a child. My kids know she is different but they accept her just as she is.

  7. This is such an incredibly important message. It is hard when kids say awkward things or ask difficult questions, but answering honestly makes such a difference.

  8. It’s definitely important to teach compassion an empathy. Every child needs a friend!

  9. Mistee Dawn says:

    This is such an important topic that some parents do not take into consideration enough. They like to say ‘kids will be kids’. My daughter has special needs and I had to pull her out and we now homeschool because it was just too much.

  10. I think this is such a great post!! Kids see early on that not everyone looks like them and it’s great to teach them that being different is ok.

  11. My daughter helps one of her classmates do homeworks. I always tell her that I am so proud of her for doing so.

  12. This is indeed a difficult phase for both parents and their young children. If this happened to any of my kids, I would probably throw a small party so I could get to see how my child interacts with other children. It is also a way for them to make new friends specially if the little guests are your child’s classmates.

  13. I always teach my kids to be kind… respect others and ignore differences.. I think its very important

  14. These are great advice, all parents should read this. I’d like to share this to all my friends whose a parents too.

  15. Teaching kindness is very important. My daughter had a classmate in grade school with special needs. The whole class was very kind to the girl and all the other classmates always helped her out.

  16. I use to teach fifth grade R.E. and one of the boys in class had Cerebral Palsy. I could tell the other kids parents taught them to try to include him and not treat him differently although I knew they all seen him as different. Nobody actually wanted to be around him they only attempted because that is what they were taught. I felt bad for him and hope that someday he meets good people with good hearts who are not just pretending to care.

  17. I’ve always taught my kiddos to be kind. I think it’s one of the most important jobs as a parent to teach them these things, but I know too many who don’t and its a shame.

  18. I taught my children to treat other the way they want to be treated. If someone is being a bully just smile and go get help.

  19. Thank you for taking the time to write about such an important topic. It is so hard to sit back and watch your kids hurt and struggle and not be able to do anything about it. It’s even harder when other kids make the situation even harder by being unkind.

  20. We are working through this now with kiddo. She’s had a rough past prior to us getting custody. Thankfully, the school counselor and her therapist are really helping her out and I feel really good about her future.

  21. Awww, this is so hard. I think it is super important to talk to kids about disabilities both seen and unseen. Sometimes just having that knowledge, helps with the barriers. I also think that parents should teach their kids to be kind to everyone no matter what.

  22. We have taught our kids from a very early age that everyone is different but that is what makes us special. We need to be kind to everyone and we always stand up for the little guys!

  23. This is so heart breaking, it’s just like you said it’s the worst feeling to see someone heartbroken and not have a way to fix it. I hope his year gets better and a friend is able to heal his little heart.

  24. My heart breaks for that boy and all the other kids dealing with similar pains. Kids can be so mean. This article brings to light the importance that parenting plays in teaching our kids how to treat people!

  25. This is so hard to do..especially when your children are very little. My son is very attentive and notices when people are ‘different’ but it’s so hard fo rhim to understand the concept!

  26. I love this post! Teaching kids empathy and understanding for others is so important! We need more of this!

  27. This hurts my heart, I hate to see kids being treated differently. One of my best friends had down syndrome and people would mistreat her. I would always take up for her, kids forget that these kids are people too.

  28. I’m dealing with this right now even though my child is 13 with no disabilities. She’s just shy, doesn’t stand out, and has high standards of behavior which are hard for others to identify with (she won’t be obnoxious or talk about lewd things or gossip). She comes home crying because she’s so alone at school. I’ve asked her about looking around for other lonely kids. She only needs one good friend to be happy. We pray she’ll find one.

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