This week’s Saturday Sidebar Question comes from World Moms Blog writer Multitasking Mumma.  She asked our writers,

“How do you explain disabilities and mental illness to your children?”

Check out what some of our World Moms had to say…

Meredith of Nigeria writes:
“I tell my children (ages 4 and 6) that God makes everyone differently with their own special gifts. They see lots of disabilities on the streets of Lagos. I tell them that not everyone can be made the same because the world would be SO boring. In that respect, they accept the people they see. So far, that has worked out pretty well. :)”

Maggie Ellison of South Carolina, USA writes:
“I teach my kids that we’re all different and we have compassion for other people.  We have a family member with special issues and they accept him for who he is.  I haven’t given them a name for what he has, but they instinctively know he’s different and have asked me why this child doesn’t like to talk.  They accept him for who he is, love him and treat him like their other cousins.”

Mamma Simona of South Africa writes:
“I have always been honest with my children but (at the same time) I have taught them to never “judge a book by its cover”! It helps that I could honestly share with them my experiences as a babysitter for a remarkable young lady who was born with cerebral palsy. She was one of the gutsiest and most loving 12 year olds I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet!

I feel so blessed that my 18 and 16 year olds treat everybody as PEOPLE first and foremost. Most people with “different abilities” want to be treated the same as everyone else. More importantly they have the same NEEDS as everyone else – love, respect, recognition for all they CAN do rather than what they can’t.”

Salma of Ontario, Canada writes:
“We have physical examples of disabilities around us, so it’s not hard to explain what it is. Mental illness is a bit harder. I suffered from it for years, and have never known how to explain it to adults, much less children.”

Kirsten Doyle of Ontario, Canada writes:
“We talk about this openly and honestly, and in simple terms that they can understand. My younger son knows his brother has autism. He knows the word and he understands that it makes his brother different. We talk about autism and other disabilities (visible or not) in such a way that there is no stigma attached to it – only acceptance and understanding.”

Tara B. of Washington State, USA writes:
“My six year old loves science and can understand ideas framed with how the human body works and DNA. So with physical and mental disabilities, we talk about which parts of the body are working differently and why, making sure to also discuss how all people are awesome and unique.”

Maman Aya of New York, USA writes:
“One of the teachers in my son’s school has only one hand. When we talked about it I explained that sometimes people are sick, so they need to have parts amputated, sometimes they are just born like this (such as this teacher). My son just accepts it as a fact (and even likes the way this teacher claps, and tries to imitate it – as a form of flattery… Not making fun of it). So far he has accepted these conversations. I think that as long as I am honest, there will be no surprises later on which can inadvertently cause some prejudices.”

Multitasking Mumma of Ontario, Canada writes:
“My daughter is still very young but has started to ask about wheelchairs. I have explained that they are to assist those with a disability to get around just like her. Also because I have bipolar I am trying to raise her to be empathetic to others and invisible struggles.”

Eva Fannon of Washington State, USA writes:
“This has recently hit home, as we’ve been coping with a family member’s Alzheimer’s that has suddenly progressed quite rapidly.  It’s been interesting to try to explain the disease and its effects in a way that will make sense to a 5 year old.  Our approach has been to have an honest and open discussion about it and answer any questions that come up along the way.

And the most important part?  I love how Mamma Simona put it….. “More importantly they have the same NEEDS as everyone else – love, respect, recognition for all they CAN do rather than what they can’t.” :)”

What about you…have you been getting questions from your child(ren) about people with disabilities and/or mental illness? How have you handled them?  

And do you have a question you would like to pose to our WMB writers?  If so, email us at to see what they have to say.

Don’t forget to visit us tomorrow to check out the travel itinerary for next week!

– World Moms Blog

Photo credit to WAVA Limited  This photo has a creative commons attribute license.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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