Looking is natural when meeting someone new. We look more and for longer when someone looks unusual. The other children at your child’s new nursery or school are likely to look carefully, perhaps with surprise and interest at him. Young children may reach out to touch his distinguishing mark or feature. Others may ask a question. If these expressions of interest and contact are discouraged, children's curiosity is not addressed and your child is at risk of finding it harder in the long run to join in and make friends.
Equipping your child with both an explanation for the way he looks and social skills for making friends will stand him in good stead for starting at nursery or school.
It is also essential that all staff members are prepared to confidently handle curiosity from other children, parents and visitors so that your child can get on with normal social activities without his difference becoming the main focus of attention.
Before your child starts at nursery, primary or secondary school you will need to set up a meeting with the person who will be responsible for looking after your child so that you can share information about his condition and ask and answer questions. Changing Faces’ School Specialist can advise you further.
The School Specialist can also work with your child’s nursery or school to offer specific guidance, resources and advice throughout his time at nursery or school. Read more about this service here.
You can also direct your contact at the nursery or school to our Teachers’ Pack which includes comprehensive guides on all aspects of teaching and supporting a child who has a disfigurement.
It is vital for all staff members including support, administrative and catering staff to understand about your child’s condition and be aware of the particular social and psychological challenges that having an unusual appearance can present. They also need to know what to say or do when somebody stares, makes a comment or asks a question about his appearance.
Before the term starts, make sure your child’s nursery or school runs an information session for all staff members to explain about his condition and also share information concerning his development, strengths and needs, both educationally and socially. This should be done in collaboration with you so that information is shared with your consent.
Most children become more sensitive about appearance and more judgmental about the appearanace of others as they grow older. Bullying can involve calling someone a name, taunting, ostricising, stealing someone's belongings, abusive text messages or e-mails, making threats, pushing, or hitting.
It is important to stress that just because your child has a disfigurement, it does not mean that he will be bullied. Having confidence and good social skills will be helpful.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, Changing Faces’ School Specialist can advise you on what to look out for and how to deal with it.
You can find further information on preparing your child for nursery or school and dealing with issues like bullying in these guides:
If you are worried about your child or you just feel that you are struggling a bit, you might find it helpful and reassuring to talk to someone at Changing Faces who understands the unique situation you are in. Changing Faces also runs an annual day for children who are preparing to move on to secondary school, and their parents.
As children get older they don’t always want to turn to their parents to discuss their worries. It can be helpful for them to have someone at Changing Faces they can talk to if they feel that they aren’t fitting in or are finding some things difficult at school. If they are 11-21 years they can also go on to www.iface.org.uk, a website created by Changing Faces’ Young People’s Council where young people with and without disfigurements can discuss and find support from each other on the issues that matter to them.