How can I help my child transition successfully to kindergarten and school?
We have put together some comprehensive Aussie Hands information kits specially for parents whose children are about to start kindergarten or school. In developing these, we asked parents of older children for their advice about what helped their child and what they wished they had known when they were worried about their child’s transition. We have also developed a kit that can be given to your child’s kindergarten or school.
How should I talk to my child about their hand difference?
Parents often ask us when they should start talking to their child about their hand difference. They wonder if they should initiate the conversation or wait for their child to bring it up.
Here at Aussie Hands, we recommend talking to your child about their hand difference as early as possible. This will help normalise the child’s experience and help them understand that “it’s no big deal”. It will also create a safe space where children feel comfortable asking questions or sharing any fears that they have. It will show them that their parents love and accept them exactly as they are, which is obviously positive for the child but also other children in the family. Some families use a unique and positive description for the hand difference such as “little hand”, “special hand” or “lucky fin” like in the Disney movie Finding Nemo.
Some parents share with us that they are worried about focusing too much on the hand difference. This is a valid concern and we know that it can feel like a bit of a fine art to get the balance of conversation right.
Open conversations help the whole family relax and build confidence, and this really helps when stepping outside the family home into the world. When parents respond to questions with calm, confident statements like, “Yes, my child was born with a hand difference. As you can see, he is pretty amazing. He can do everything other children do. We’re really proud of him and think he is perfect just the way he is”, their children notice and become skilled in responding in a similar way.
Of course, children change as they grow, so you can expect that your child’s feelings about their hand difference will also change over time. We’ve noticed that around three to four years of age, it is very common for children to become aware that their hand looks different. This can be a tough time for both the child and parent. It is also common at an older age for children to decide that their hand will eventually grow to “normal” shape and size. Understandably, it can be very upsetting for a child who has been holding on to this idea to discover that it is not the case.
Here at Aussie Hands, we are keen to support parents staying present to their children’s changing needs, mainly through active listening. We know that hearing your child’s struggles can be extremely hard to hear! But we have seen that the most resilient children have felt that their parents have heard them and let them feel sad if that is how they are feeling. These parents have also reminded them that it is perfectly okay to be different and that they are safe and loved, exactly as they are. Reading books about other children with limb differences can really help to normalise the experience, as can hanging out with other children with hand differences from time to time.
Watching videos of children with hand differences doing great things can also be great for both you and your child. Click here to watch some videos of school aged children doing a range of activities