12 Secrets to Parenting a Blind Child
While the following list is certainly not comprehensive, it is a pretty good set of guidelines for parenting a blind child. It’s based on a great many conversation with “successful,” blind adults and asking how they were raised. I think everything on this list would be good parenting practice for any child, but these are things that are especially important if this child is visually impaired. They are in no particular order; they’re all important.
- Children should be accountable for their actions. A child should be raised in such a way that, should their vision be magically restored at some point in the future, they would have the tools and personality to be a happy, productive adult.
- Develop a good work ethic. Everyone, regardless of how well they can see, needs to be accountable for how they work. A professional is someone who does their best even when they don’t particularly feel like it.
- They should have regular chores that they’re expected to perform to the best of their ability.
- Develop good social skills. Sight has nothing to do with courtesy, thoughtfulness, friendliness, etc.
- Get exposed to as many different experiences as possible. Blindness can be allowed to shrink a child’s horizons. Extra attention should be paid to developing hobbies, taking trips, and trying new things.
- Master “blind skills” as early as possible: Braille, cane, accessible technologies, etc.
- Don’t tell them that they can’t do something. You could be wrong and, even if you’re right, they’ll still learn from the effort. After all, we are certain that, when a sighted child says that he or she wants to be President, there is virtually no chance they will succeed, but we smile and wish them luck anyway.
- Don’t helicopter. The natural temptation to hover over our children is greatly magnified if that child has a disability. While we don’t want to think about it, we are all mortal and the time will come when you won’t be there.
- The child should be allowed to fail. You can bet if they’re not failing, they’re not trying. And, if they’re not trying, they’re not progressing.
- Teach them to advocate for themselves. Learning to do this appropriately is not hard, but it is a skill that is essential to learn and can be taught early.
- Teach the child to be a “problem solver.” Successful adults, sighted or blind, cultivate the habit, when encountering a problem, of thinking, “Now, how can I solve this?” instead of “Oh, I can’t do this.”
- Whenever possible, model the behavior you expect. After all, you are the most influential teacher in your child’s life.
Finally, grant yourself forgiveness. Even the very best parents make mistakes. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be a need for psychotherapists.