7 Ways to Build Self-Identity with Hearing Loss
Self-identity: It’s recognizing the unique aspects that make us who we are, and is the foundation for self-worth and emotional wellbeing. It isn’t innate, but rather each child develops their own sense of self as they grow from a baby into a toddler; when they recognize their personality traits, their likes and dislikes, the culture they live in, and their physical characteristics like hair color or height.
When your child has a hearing loss, it’s a part of who they are. It will be an individual and distinguishing trait that will almost inevitably influence their self-identity. And if he or she wears a hearing device, like a hearing aid or hearing implant, other children and adults will be able see the hearing loss.
Like having any kind of difference from some other children, this might lead to feelings of uncertainty for your child. Others might express curiosity about their hearing loss or device and might ask questions or react a certain way. What can help you to build your child’s secure sense of self-worth is knowing how to manage situations like this.
And here’s where you come in.
You can help your child to develop a positive self-identity.
Self-Identity is Greatly Affected by the Influential People in One’s Life
It’s the people closest to you and your child, like siblings, extended family, and close friends, who are likely to spend a significant amount of time with your child as he or she grows up. Because of this, they are the ones who your child will look to for advice and guidance. How they interact with your child, and talk about and respond to your child’s hearing loss, can have an enormous effect on how your child responds to their own hearing loss. When those around your child speak openly and optimistically about the hearing loss, this can help your child to feel supported and confident. And you can build your child’s sense of independence even more by encouraging him or her to ask questions and speak openly about their own hearing loss.
Foster Positive Experiences
When your child feels accepted and supported by others, they’ll be able to develop a sense of companionship and security. Teaching your child’s siblings and relatives about your child’s hearing loss can help your child to have positive experiences when interacting with them—because they understand the hearing loss better, and ways to best manage interactions in a positive way. Through these positive experiences, your child will see themselves as a whole person, and not just someone with hearing loss. This can also lay a positive foundation for your child to start developing peer and social relationships.
Encourage Family and Friends to Send a Consistent Message of Acceptance
To expand on the last two points, positive and open talk can send the message to your child that there’s no need to hide their hearing loss or hearing device. When your child is consistently encouraged to wear their hearing aid or hearing implant in all environments, they’ll see that it’s accepted and will be more likely to see it as a part of their identity.
Teach Your Child About Their Hearing Loss
Beyond letting your child know that he or she can wear a hearing device, explain to your child why and how it helps. Teach your child about what hearing loss is and how his or her specific hearing loss affects him or her. When your child is able to understand and explain the hearing loss to others he or she will inherently develop an ownership of the hearing loss. Through this awareness your child can further develop confidence, knowledge, and understanding of their self.
Role-Play Social Situations With Your Child
Role-playing is a powerful way that you can help your child to explore different views and opinions in a safe and controlled context, one where he or she is not under pressure because the focus is on the characters. Focus on questions about hearing devices and hearing loss, and effective ways that your child can respond to these questions. This will help your child to explore a range of thoughts and opinions that might come up in daily life, and help your child build a repertoire of responses that can be used in real life. Role-play with variety: life isn’t always positive, so practicing both good and challenging situations gives your child a variety of responses.
Create a Book Starring Your Child
Follow this generalized role-play with something more specific, for example a handmade book all about them as an individual; give it a clear title like “All About Peter!” Write about all the different attributes that make your child who he or she is: family members, where he or she lives, likes and dislikes, favorite experiences, and, of course, a page or two on hearing loss and hearing devices. For example, you could write something like “I have two cochlear implants. I wear the audio processors on my ears because these help me to hear all the sounds around me. My favorite thing to listen to is _____”. This can help your child to recognize that while hearing loss is a part of his or her identity, there are lots more attributes that make up an individual.
Teach Your Child’s Teachers About Your Child’s Hearing Loss
By helping your child’s teachers to know more about your child’s hearing loss and hearing devices, you can help to extend messages of acceptance from your family’s circle to your child’s school life. By making sure that your child’s teachers are confident in managing any potential issues with your child’s hearing or hearing devices, and that they’re willing to foster a positive environment where your child’s hearing loss is understood and accepted, your child will have freedom to learn and grow confidently in their school life.
This post was written with help from Ingrid Steyns, a rehabilitation specialist at MED-EL.
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