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5 tips for parents of a child with a physical difference

Martha and Grant Griffin, authors of the children’s book, What Makes Me Shine: Sam’s Birthmark, offer tips on what to say when someone asks about your child's physical difference such as a birthmark.

Today's guest bloggers are Martha and Grant Griffin, authors of the new children's book, What Makes Me Shine: Sam's Birthmark. They are the proud parents of two beautiful sons. Their oldest child, Barron, was born with a port wine vascular birthmark. After researching vascular birthmarks and connecting with other birthmark parents, they saw a need for a children's book with a main character who has a birthmark. They live in Dallas, TX with their sons and dog, Shakespeare.

We are used to stares and questions regarding our son's vascular port wine stain birthmark covering the right side of his face as we've gone about our holiday preparations. From the time of our son's birth, we have embraced our son's birthmark and want to help other parents and children accept their differences.

People asking questions and looking is normal human behavior. Explaining what it is and what causes the birthmark gives you the opportunity to teach both children and adults. We see parents all the time whispering, "Don't stare," or "Stop, it's rude to stare," and whisk away the inquisitive child. Those parents are the ones that are uncomfortable with the situation and a brief 30 second chat can help everyone to adjust their perception of something they consider a negative. That first step is hard for both sides. Once someone takes the initiative to ask, people find out that somebody with a disability, or who looks different, is really like themselves.

We want to help parents and children with their reactions so everyone has a happier holiday.

Here are our top five tips for helping parents of a child with a vascular birthmark or physical difference:

1.  Adults and Children are naturally curious so do not get offended when they are staring. When you see them looking you might say, "It's okay to ask about his birthmark." The majority of birthmark parents would much rather talk about it.

2.  Sometimes people will say, "What is wrong with his face?" A great reply is, "Nothing is wrong with his face. He has a birthmark and we love it.

3.  After a laser surgery children would follow our son around and tend to stare. Another mother gave me the advice to tell the child he just had a laser surgery and it doesn't hurt. A child's natural reaction is to think it hurts so they are usually relieved to find out he isn't in pain. Many times they will respond with excitement showing me a birthmark somewhere on their body.

4.  At an early age teach the child an appropriate response and that people are asking because they are curious about their birthmark. They are not making fun or ridiculing them. By three years old our son learned to say, "It's my birthmark," and he knows it's perfectly alright for people to ask about it and this is a positive interaction with someone.

5. Generally, people have a good heart and are not staring to be cruel. They are naturally curious or want to tell you someone they know has a birthmark. However, once in a while, you will run into a mean spirited or unworldly person or someone with a thought or view that comes out of left field. Don't take those comments personally and move on.

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