How Our Perfectionist Society Affects Families of Handicapped Children
Today’s society is all about perfectionism. You need to wear the “right” clothes, live in the “right” neighborhood, drive a fancy, expensive car and have a career that you can brag about, and if not, you may find yourself the subject of many jokes and taunts and may even be ostracized by others.
This type of perfectionist thinking can affect anyone but is especially difficult for handicapped persons and parents of handicapped children. If an able-bodied person can be teased and ridiculed and left out because they’re not perfect, how much more so a person with mental, emotional or physical limitations!
There are any number of ways that today’s perfectionist thinking can affect a handicapped child or parents of handicapped children. Your child’s abilities may be dismissed; other parents may ask how you expect them to take care of themselves if they can only handle simple jobs. For the parent of a handicapped child, they are happy if their child will be able to grow up and be independent or at least be able to work with counselors and support groups. However, in this perfectionist world, if they can’t have a six-figure salary and aren’t’ able to climb the corporate ladder, their accomplishments are dismissed.
A child with limitations may also need more oversight and structure than other children. When a child is mentally or emotionally handicapped, they may struggle to socialize or get through simple household chores. Many parents have a perfectionist idea about their own children, expecting them to excel in athletics and academics and have a job after school. They may not understand the achievements of your own child, such as getting through basic schooling or learning to be independent with feeding, dressing, bathing, and so on. You may be happy about their advancements in simple things, but a perfectionist view dismisses them as trivial.
Looks are also very important in this perfectionist world, and even an able-bodied child who is average-looking may be teased and ridiculed and bullied because of their appearance. A handicapped child with physical limitations or concerns may be treated just as mercilessly, regardless of their abilities or efforts to get through everyday life. Some handicapped children are even gawked at by strangers who may make cruel comments about their appearance without any thought as to the feelings of that child.
When dealing with perfectionism in this world, work hard to block out those attitudes. Appreciate your child for what he or she does offer and what they can accomplish. Get support from other parents and remember that the most important opinion about your child is his or hers. Work to build up their self-esteem and they’ll function just fine even in our perfectionist world.