You'll find hundreds of files on cleft lip, cleft palate here on widesmiles.org.

This one is about: A Parent's Role

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A Parent's Role

I think the most important time of the child's life is... well... all of it, basically.  And at all times, parents can make the biggest contribution to the child's self image.

As babies... love, love, LOVE that child.... unconditionally... thoroughly... ALL of the child.  Kiss his little cleft and look him in the eyes and honestly tell him how incredibly beautiful he is and how much you love him.  Don't hide him away, and don't "protect" him from the child that he is.  Let your own attitude dictate the direction that the attitudes of others around him are going to take. He's not a tragedy.. he's not a sorrow.. he's your own precious baby, and a bundle of everything lovely.

As toddlers and pre-schoolers... lay the foundation of acceptance and understanding.  Talk openly about the cleft.. it's easy at that time.. there's lots going on.  Tell the birth story (or adoption story) time and again, and include the cleft in that story.  Let him see his baby pictures, and explain it to him in terms he can understand.  "See how it looked broken?  It wasn't broken.  It just didn't grow together before you were born.  The doctor helped it grow together with an operaion....." Let him know that this subject is never taboo in your house, and that there is nothing that cannot be discussed in your arms.

As school-aged kids... Be there to help, to educate his growing world, to listen, to comfort.  There are many new experiences, and for the first time since he was born, he will be fielding the questions for himself.  This is also the time that we let go of the cleft as a central focus in his life (one of several, to be sure) and realize on our own that if we did our jobs well, it finds a niche of perspective in our child's life too.  Yes, there is the cleft, and he can answer the questions that may come his way... but there is also soccer, and baseball, and homework, and that neat field trip to the planetarium... and everything else that fills a young child's life... including lots and lots and lots of friends.  This is also the time when enemies are formed, and bullies come out of the cracks of their own low self esteem.  If it happens, and your child is bullied, you are there to comfort him and empower him such that he can either stop the bullying,! or hold the shield that stops, or muffles, the hurt.

As teens (shouldn't that word be capitalized? LOL)... we as parents are far from done.  We are there to help our child deal with the angst of their budding independence, and to help them keep their physical selves (soooo improtant at this age) in perspective.  The cleft is only one part of their lives, only one issue that they deal with.  New surgeries coming at this age can make major or minor changes to the face they see in the mirror... NOT a good age to change a part of one's identity... but this is still the age for it for some (Mine have escaped these surgeries.)  He didn't get the part in the play (was it the cleft?)  He didn't get elected for the student body office  he ran for (was it the cleft?) The girl of his dreams is dating someone else (Is it the cleft?)  No... it's life.  Not every child gets the part in the play, not every candidate wins the election, not a single person gets through life without a broken heart at one ! point or another.... Convince him of his wonderfulness and goodness, and let him step back up to the plate and take another swing at life.  Cleft or no cleft, the hormones rage at this point in life, the body changes, and emotions (particularly in girls, but boys do NOT escape it) go wild.  It's the most fun time of a person's life, and the hardest too.  Our babies are fledging and they are scared, and we are scared... but they (and we) have to get through this time of development, and we do.  For some (for us, in fact... and my two 15 yr old boys) it is relatively painless.  For others, it's a struggle the likes of which could not have been imagined.  Cleft, or no cleft.

The tools we give our children have a tremendous impact on how well they handle their world.  We parents cannot underestimate the value of our role in our children's lives as they travel this well-trodden road toward independent adulthood.

What an adventure!


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