If your child has a cleft lip, it’s natural for them to feel isolated and alone. But cleft issues are surprisingly common, affecting as many as one out of every 1,600 births, according to the CDC.
Of course, just because cleft problems aren’t unusual doesn’t make it any easier for your child to cope. Not only will they have surgery or other medical interventions in their future, but they may also face challenges in school and other settings among their peers.
As a leading oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Oakland, California, Brandon Kang, DDS, offers state-of-the-art cleft treatment for kids at Pacific Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Center. Here, Dr. Kang provides some tips to help you support your child so they can cope with their cleft and feel more confident and self-assured.
Communicate early and often
Make it easy for your child to talk honestly about their feelings and concerns, and work together to find answers and solutions. Talk to your child’s teacher and encourage an open dialog between your child and their teachers and coaches, as well.
Help school personnel understand the importance of helping your child fit in with their peers, and ensure they know that a cleft defect doesn’t imply any sort of learning disability.
Look into speech therapy early
Cleft defects can affect the way your child speaks. The sooner you begin working with a speech therapist, the better your child will be at coping with speech problems and learning strategies to overcome those difficulties.
If your child has swallowing issues, look for a therapist with experience in improving swallowing skills.
Help your child practice social skills
Asking another child to play and simply interacting with other children and adults can make many people feel self-conscious. Help your child overcome their own hesitancy by practicing casual conversation and role-playing a variety of social situations.
Work with your child’s doctors
Dr. Kang has extensive experience working with kids with cleft defects. He and his team are a source of information and support, in addition to state-of-the-art cleft treatments. He can help you find resources and support groups to help your child thrive.
Help your child plan responses
It’s not uncommon for kids to ask questions — some of which may seem very straightforward and even rude. Practice answering questions with your child so they’re prepared. Help them see themselves as an ambassador who can help other people understand cleft issues and become more accepting and knowledgeable.
Help your child excel
Help your child focus on their skills and talents at school, in sports, or with extracurriculars, like art, dance, or music. By complimenting your child and supporting them in their areas of interest, they can feel more confident about themselves in every way.
Don’t ignore bullying
If your child is teased, don’t ignore it or brush it off as unimportant. Take time to explore their feelings and discuss how bullying and teasing are often a reflection of the other person’s insecurities.
Explain to your child that some people — children and adults — react poorly when confronted with someone who’s different in even the smallest way. Help your child see the value of compassion and kindness, and remind them that facial features don’t define who a person is.
If your child has a cleft defect, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment with Dr. Kang online or over the phone today.