Recently, we took St. Barnabas’ 4th through 8th grade students on a field trip to see the movie, Wonder. Wonder is about a boy named Auggie who was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a rare condition which causes facial deformities. Due to his condition, Auggie was homeschooled until the fifth grade at which point he and his family decided he would gain from the benefits of a traditional education. He and his classmates had to learn how to navigate being different. His classmates learned how to have compassion for those who have differences.
Exposure to stories like Auggie’s help our children to develop social and emotional intelligence empowering them to serve as “ambassadors of kindness” in their classrooms. As your children process this film and the subsequent conversations held about the movie, they may come to you with questions and feedback from any personal experiences they may have. We encourage you to have honest conversations with them about kindness and difference. Here are a few parenting tips to make those conversations easier.
Encourage Your Child’s Honest Questions
Your young children may never have been exposed to a person with physical or mental differences. So, it’s natural that your child would have questions about why a person may look or act differently than what he or she is used to seeing. By having these honest conversations with your children you can celebrate differences and teach them compassion for all people, especially those they perceive who are unlike themselves. Keeping an honest and open dialogue with your children is one of the most important parenting tips we can offer.
Expose Your Children To People With Differences
If your children are unfamiliar with difference, which many young children are, exposure to new people can help expand their understanding and compassion. Bringing your children to volunteer with wounded veterans or the elderly is a great way to help them wrap their minds around people whose bodies and faces are different than their own. The same is true of exposing your child to people from other cultures. Interacting with other people who don’t look or sound like them is an important part of building understanding and awareness of others.
Practice Celebrating What’s Inside
Focusing on a person’s appearance is easy, it’s the first thing we notice when we meet someone new. But it takes a little more time and attention to see someone on a deeper level. Teaching your children this practice can be a fun exercise. Next time your child notices someone who looks or behaves differently, ask your child a simple question: what else do you see? Inviting children to look deeper is an excellent way to help them develop into ambassadors of compassion and kindness.
Having these somewhat complex and sensitive conversations with your children is essential because you are the most important influence on your children. Lessons of compassion from parents will have a lasting influence on their ability to see and care for people more deeply. If you’d like to learn more about the movie Wonder, and the important lessons your children learned from watching it, consider reading the novel Wonder, written by R.J. Palacio, from which the movie is based. Reading it together with your children at bedtime is a great way to continue this important dialogue about compassion and kindness. For more parenting tips or information about other ways in which St. Barnabas teaches values, social and emotional learning, contact us today.