Your kids may not readily grasp the fact that some people have mental disabilities.
Don’t penalize or ground them when they wrongly made fun of people with mental disabilities. Talk to them instead and explain things properly.
Your kids will only begin to be aware of the complexities of mental disabilities once they get to formally meet someone who is mentally challenged. Take that opportunity to educate and guide them well. Here are some recommendations on how you can responsibly teach your kids about mental abilities:
- Be candid. Consider the respective ages of your kids when you talk about mental abilities. Level with them. Be specific and straightforward in explaining why mental abilities occur. Show them photos of different kids. Tell them that those kids are of the same age. Then, point out that kids develop differently. Although most kids grow normally, there are also some kids who have mental disabilities. Let them realize that kids who have mental disabilities are just like everybody else and should not be treated differently.
- Allow questions. Encourage your kids to raise questions. Ask them to clarify or confirm their impressions. Discuss matters openly. They may get the wrong idea if you hush them. They may assume that talking about mental abilities is inappropriate. Be frank in giving out your answers. Admit if the issue is sensitive or unfamiliar. Promise that you will find time to look for the right answer. All of you may even search for the answer online.
- Give examples. Your kids may not really get the point of understanding mental disabilities when no one in the family or among your friends is mentally challenged. Think of more examples that have relevance to them. Focus on their grandfather who is using a walker. Explain that their grandfather has physical limitations that make using a walker become necessary for him. Tell them to bear with their grandfather since he can no longer do the physical activities expected of a “normal” adult. Associate the condition of their grandfather to the situation of people with mental disabilities. They should respect people even if they have “limitations” and “challenges”.
- Encourage patience. Mentally disabled people may find it difficult to understand messages, follow instructions, or complete projects. Emphasize to your kids that those are “limitations” and “challenges” and should not be used in gauging the intelligence of mentally disabled people. Instruct your kids to be more patient when they get the chance to study or work with some people with mental disabilities. They should be more tolerant, supportive, and understanding. They should offer little help as much as possible.
- Instill kindness and love. Your kids should learn to accept people for who they are. They should embrace everybody without any prejudice and reservation, including those people with mental disabilities. You may even consider volunteering your kids to a special needs program and exposing them to kids with special needs. The way you raise them will shape the way they deal with people from different walks of life. Be a good role model for them. Practice what you preach.