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Q: My 16-month-old nephew was just fitted for braces to help him walk. His mother called me and was so upset because the other children at the childcare center were teasing him because his shoes were large (in order to fit over the braces). How should his mother handle this?
A: Children often expect everyone to be alike, and when they find someone who is different they may not understand and so may tease. Your sister will not want to keep your nephew locked up at home forever, so the best defense will probably be education.
Suggest to your sister that she ask for time to talk with the classes at the childcare center to explain about your nephew's braces. She will probably want to show the braces and explain how they will help him walk, keeping the language simple. Once children understand that your nephew is just like them -- except that he needs extra help to walk -- they will feel comfortable and the teasing should stop. You will probably see a large number of the children wanting to be his friend and help him!
Your sister should be prepared to explain the same things to children (and even adults) at the grocery store, the mall, and other places they go. Your nephew will see his mom handling other people and their curiosity in this way, and when he is old enough to educate them himself he will have had a great role model.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.