Handling questions

Parents and children often report feeling completely unprepared to deal with questions from others, leaving them feeling angry, upset or wary about going out. Having some responses prepared to use if people ask a question about your child and help to make you feel more confident and comfortable in social situations. Because how we feel can change from day to day, have a couple of responses prepared so you can see what you feel most comfortable with. Before you prepare your responses think about:

  1. How much (or how little) you want to say about your child’s visible difference
  2. Who are you talking to – is it a passing acquaintance or someone you hope to establish a friendship?
  3. How are you feeling? Some days we might feel more confident than others to talk to others.
  4. What is the situation? Are you sat talking to a new friend one to one or are you in a busy place where others could over hear your personal information

There are a number of ways to respond: 

Tell them you do not want to discuss it at all:

“I’d rather not talk about it.  I’m sure you can understand.”

A short, clear response, answering but also saying this is the end of the subject:

“My son was burned when he was younger.  It was a long time ago and I don’t talk about it much now.”

Offer a short description

Offer a brief, simple response and then divert the person by moving onto another subject:

“It’s just burn scarring from an accident he had a long time ago.  I love it here, don’t you? It’s such a nice place.”

You don’t have to continue talking about your child’s condition. You can move the conversation on in a natural and appropriate way. At playgroup or a parents group it is easy to focus on things you may have in common or to engage in small talk.

“What is your son’s name?” “Do you live nearby?”

“I got very little sleep last night. Marla is teething.”

“I wondered if you knew of a good child minder – I am going back to work soon?”

Indicating you’re at ease with the subject, but encouraging a more general discussion rather than a personal one:

“My son was burned when he was younger, but fortunately smoke alarms have greatly reduced the number of injuries like his.”

Practice writing some of your own short descriptions in a notebook

You may need to try some out and practice in different situations, but eventually, these will be easier to say.  Most people will be happy with a very brief explanation and will take their lead from you.

Longer descriptions

The general rule of thumb is, the more the interaction means to you, and your child, the more detail you are likely to want to provide.

“Bob looks different because he has Crouzons. He had to spend a lot of time in hospital when he was little. He isn’t talking yet but he understands what you are saying and loves to play.

“Jess had in an accident when she was a baby and she has a scar on her face. She has had to have operations and there will probably be some more, she also has scarring on her legs and she can get quite upset about it, but overall she is just happy when she is playing and she doesn’t talk about it much”

It can be helpful to think about what you might be comfortable saying to someone about your child, you might think about how you would respond if you get any further questions. For example, if someone asked for details of your child’s accident – you might not want to go into details about this as it can bring back upsetting memories. You might also need to think about if your child is around you and might hear what you are saying.

Remember, on the whole, people are simply curious or interested, exactly as you would be yourself.  Most people will be happy with a very brief explanation and will take their lead from you. Also, people may be unsure whether to ask or not – and not want to seem as though they have ignored your condition or avoided talking about it.

You can adapt the above into your own words and find the statements that work for you. You could try some of these out using the examples below – to help you practise for different situations. You might also like to look at our self-help on handling staring and handling comments.

Handling comments

Read

Handling staring

Read

More people are using Changing Faces services than ever before. We want to be here for everyone affected by with a mark, scar or condition that makes them look different.

We’ve made all our services, factsheets and information free for everyone. It takes time and money to do this, but we think it is really important.

That’s why I hope you’ll understand why we need to ask for your help. If you’ve found our website or services helpful, and your circumstances allow, then please consider donating. Every penny counts and you can give at www.changingfaces.org.uk/donate Thank you.