Building self-esteem and coping strategies in a child with a cleft lip or cleft palate can be one of the greatest concerns for the parents of our patients with these facial anomalies.
Building Self-Esteem and Coping Strategies in a Child with Cleft Lip and Palate
A patient affected by these facial differences not only has to undergo cleft lip and cleft palate surgery and often years of medical treatment, but possible social challenges that can have long-term effects on self-esteem and his/her ability to successfully interact in social settings.
Facial anomalies can often involve speech difficulty which can create the additional problem of being understood, and even accepted. At times, a cleft lip/palate may be misconstrued as a lack of intelligence because of speech or facial differences.
Cleft lip and palate patients may at some point have to cope with:
- Childhood teasing
- Adolescent rejection
- Questions about the facial difference
- Being perceived as different
- Social stigma of cleft lips and cleft palates
The pain of dealing with self-esteem and coping these social situations, in addition to their own feelings about their appearance, can have an emotional impact on cleft lip/palate patients. Purposeful building of self-esteem in a child with a cleft lip or palate will not only create confidence and a feeling of self-worth, but empower him/her to be able to handle social situations more comfortably.
Tips to Enhance Self-Esteem and Coping in Children with Cleft Lip and Palate
- Remind your child that the facial anomaly does not define him/her.
- If teased, discuss how your child feels rather than demeaning the teaser.
- Interact with others who have differences so that your child won’t feel isolated in his/her experiences. Camp Amigo for kids with cleft lip and cleft palate is supported and served by members of the Craniofacial Team of Texas and is one way to interact with peers in a fun, adventure-filled weekend.
- Discipline your child as you would any other child. Structure, responsibility, and boundaries are important for all children.
- Help your child develop social skills, such as asking someone to play and starting a conversation. Once the ice is broken, most children quickly become comfortable with any differences.
- Help your child to groom and dress appropriately. Confidence is built when children feel that they fit in.
- Talk honestly with your child about the facial anomaly and encourage your child to talk openly as well. Being able to answer questions that friends may ask will help your child’s comfort level in social situations.
- Create an open dialog with teachers so both you and your child feel comfortable speaking with them about any problems that may arise. Be sure teachers understand your child’s abilities and challenge your child appropriately.
- Explain that everyone has struggles that they must learn to cope with, even if we cannot see them.
Self-Esteem and Coping Strategies for Cleft Lip and Palate Patients and Families
Developing ways to manage difficulties involved with having a cleft lip or palate will help reduce emotional stress for both patients and their families. Encouraging coping mechanisms in your child and integrating them into your own life as a parent can help in overcoming some of the emotional hurdles that can sometimes overwhelm patients and families living with facial differences and their treatment.
Successful self-esteem and coping can include:
- Asking for help: Being self-reliant is an admirable quality, but there are times when the best thing you can do is to get help, working smarter not harder at accomplishing a task.
- Instilling an atmosphere of honesty: Create an environment in which your child, family, and friends feel comfortable talking openly about their feelings. This will develop communicative and emotional skills and allow a safe place for everyone affected to express emotions such as sadness, fear, anxiety, hope, and anger that they may not feel able to elsewhere.
- Taking a “one day at a time” approach: It may sound simplistic, but focusing on the present rather than worrying about the future is a learned skill. Helping your child, your family, and yourself develop this motto can minimize feelings of being overwhelmed.
- Using a support network: Your support network can be an organized group of people with similar circumstances or other individuals who you feel that you or your child can talk to. Parents and children need to be able to share their feeling with others who will listen in a non-judgmental way and who understand what they are going through. Finding role models through a support network for cleft lip/palate patients can be the best way of coping with the emotional stress and improving psychological challenges of cleft lip and palate patients and their families.
The Craniofacial Team of Texas is committed to meeting all of our patients’ needs through a multidisciplinary approach which addresses all facets of the condition we are treating and the health of each patient physically and emotionally.
If you would like more information about self-esteem and coping, please contact the Craniofacial Team of Texas by calling 512-377-1142 or toll free 877-612-7069 to schedule an appointment or complete an online appointment request.