These Childhood Relationships Have Lasting Benefit

Forming friendships and being viewed in a positive light by their peers are very important to our children, even at a young age.

From the time they are little, we try to encourage our children to include everyone in their play, to share, and to treat others as they would want to be treated.

There is, perhaps, one friendship your children may be hesitant to form, but once they do, it will teach them a great deal about compassion and empathy – traits that will serve them well throughout their lives.

PopSugar reported:

Having a diverse group of friends does not need to stop at race.Friendships should include people of all walks of life, abilities, and disabilities. Encouraging children to befriend a child with special needs may not only provide a wonderful benefit to a child with a disability (reason enough for encouragement), but it might also do more for your child than you may have ever imagined.

Children with special needs –whether they be physical, emotional, or intellectual — often find themselves feeling isolated or “different” than other kids.  Encouraging your children to befriend children who may have a difficult time forming friendships can be a wonderful gift to everyone involved.

Studies show that adults who know someone with special needs are more likely to encourage their children to befriend a child with a disability.  And when those children become adults, they are more likely to employ, date, or even marry a person with special needs themselves, having reached a special level of understanding and compassion.

Parents’ Magazine reports:

In other words, knowing (and befriending) someone with [special needs] makes you more open-minded—something most parents strive to instill in their children.

What’s key is starting a discussion. Not only will it break down fears and barriers, your child will know this is a topic you want to talk about, and might very well come back to you with questions as the years go on.

Teaching our children from a young age to accept and embrace the differences in others is a valuable life skill.  And by modeling these behaviors as parents, we are showing our children that friendship comes in all types.

PopSugar reported on the amazing benefits to our kids in forming all kinds of friendships.  By embracing differences and respecting others from all walks of life, we can teach them to use their time and talents to build up others:

Encouraging our children to befriend a child with special needs:

Helps Them to Be More Accepting of Differences

Getting to know a child with special needs might just open your child’s mind to be more accepting of individual differences, which in turn could provide them with a lifetime full of acceptance of others.

Encourages Patience

Let’s face it, children are not known for their patience. However, interacting and being friendly with someone who might take a little more time at doing everyday things will go a long way in teaching the fine art of patience.

Teaches Them Compassion

Interacting with someone who may not have been dealt the same cards physically and mentally teaches children about compassion and what it means to overcome challenges in life — because, let’s face it, everyone has to deal with challenges at some point.

Lets Them Help

Children love to help in any way possible. Who better for them to lend a helping hand to than someone who might actually benefit from their willingness to help.

Because children can be fearful of things they don’t understand, they may be hesitant to approach a child with special needs at school or during play.  Or worse, they may be encouraged by their peers to exclude or even bully a child who they deem to be “different.”

One of the most important things our children can learn from us is to be compassionate and accepting of others.  When we embrace people with special needs, perhaps our lives are even more enriched by doing so than theirs.

So how do you help your hesitant child embrace what makes us all unique and special?  And how can you encourage your child to disregard what their peers might think?

North Shore Pediatric Therapy suggests that parents can give their children the following life lessons:

  • The understanding that no two people are the same and that is a good thing. Accepting the uniqueness of the individual and also celebrating the differences can open your child up to a world of happiness.
  • Teaching your child that a disability is not who the person is and there are many cool and fun attributes that they have. All kids have to do is find them through play and friendship.
  • Children with disabilities are like all children in that they want friends, respect and to be included.
  • Do not be afraid of children with disabilities. They make look different, but once you get to know them, they are the same child looking for fun and joy.

 You can also use books, television, or social media as a means of discussion with your children.There are many educational videos and children’s programs that teach acceptance of children with special needs, and there are many online resources to show your child how they can uplift others with their gift of friendship.

How have you encouraged your children to be accepting of children with special needs in school or play environments?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments section.

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