“Most of us will face situations similar to this as we raise our children,” says Heidi Allen Garvin, founder of the popular website Mormon Moms. “They are naturally inquisitive and we need to teach and guide them to be sensitive to the circumstances of others.” A difficult experience with one of Garvin’s children proved a turning point in understanding how to help children learn to treat others:
“When my oldest daughter was four, she pointed out a larger lady in the grocery store and innocently commented. My response may not have been the best as I hadn’t been expecting that situation yet. I tried to reassure her that ‘Yes, people come in all sizes and shapes, but we don’t point at them.’ When we got into the car I was able to explain to her that we each have different problems and challenges and that we don’t ever want to hurt anyone else, make fun of them, or be unkind. We hope that they won’t be unkind to us either.
“Since that time I’ve tried to help my children understand that all of us have unique circumstances and problems and that we need to be aware and sensitive to the needs of others.
“A few years later, we moved to a neighborhood with a gal in a wheelchair and she soon became our close friend. My children were interested and wanted to learn more about her circumstances. I asked if she’d feel comfortable sharing from her life, as wheelchairs were new to my children. She was actually happy to share about her experiences and challenges and to show us how she would shower, get into her van to go places, do her laundry, and prepare her food. It made her feel good to know that someone cared about how she lived her life and it opened our eyes to understand what she, and others, had to face every day. Sometimes we’d help with things she couldn’t do such as changing her bedding or getting things off high shelves. We invited her over for dinner or games as ours was one of the few places she could enter with her wheelchair, and went places together such as shopping and to museums. We’ve learned a lot from her and are grateful and blessed that she’s been in our life.
“Each of us has different challenges, as well as gifts and strengths. If we’re open, we can learn things from one another and we can learn to love and serve those around us. Perhaps we can help our children by finding ways in our communities to serve others. This can help them become more aware of different needs and circumstances. Challenges can come to any of us and most of us appreciate kindnesses shown to us during our difficult times.”
Find out how 4 other parenting experts respond…