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

This one is about: When Should I Start Talking to my Children About their Cleft?

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A Parent Asks:

When Should I start talking to my  children about their cleft?


There was never a time that my children did not hear about cleft in our home. I suppose it would be hard to NOT talk about clefts, since all three of my kids were born with them - requiring so very many surgeries in our family - and I edit Wide Smiles, I visit new mothers in the hospital, I sit with new parents through surgery, I am listowner of cleft-talk and I provide input to the website. I believe that most likely there is not MORE cleft saturated home anywhere. But I believe in the end, the result is that my kids have a very healthy attitude about their clefts - - and that is, basically - that it's not a big issue. (odd, huh!)

The issue of cleft is such an every-day issue in my home that it is almost mundane. They have understood clefting so long that they do not remember ever having a need to ask a question. It is not the topic of EVERY conversation, but it is a topic of some conversations - appropriate ones. My kids have always seen their unrepaired baby pictures. They have always been with us as we discussed surgical plans with the doctors. They have heard me discuss cleft with other moms and dads. It's just no big deal to them. When questions have come of from kids at school, though, the questions have rolled right off them. If a child asks Joey, for instance, what happened to his lip, his matter-of-fact answer is simply "I was born with a cleft." and he continues to play, unaffected by what some would perceive as a rude intrusion. To my kids it seems no more rude than asking about eye color.

Bottom line - in my opinion - always allow the fact of cleft to be a non-valued topic of conversation in your home. Be ready to answer questions as they come up. If the topic does not come up, then orchestrate it at least once in a while (sit down to look at baby pictures, or talk about the birth story, etc. Never been a forced issue for me. We have so MANY opportunities to discuss it.)

Your child is not a cleft with a child attached. He is a child. But that child was born with a cleft - just a historical fact. And that cleft may or may not affect him in some ways as he grows. Peer relationships may be one way. Questioning differences within himself may be another. Arm him with accurate, non-valued information so that he has the right answers. Otherwise, the answers come from your child's imagination - and that's where the monsters live, and the monsters rarely tell the truth.

Joanne Green
Wide Smiles

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