Some children may exhibit a fear of amputees or people with disabilities. These fears are more common among preschool children, and usually arise because seeing such abnormalities will provoke anxiety about their own body autonomy.
It’s similar to the feelings you might get when watching a video of a sports player shattering a leg. It causes a gut reaction in us; we turn away and might even feel sick. Some kids may experience a similar queasy sense of discomfort around people who are missing limbs or are otherwise crippled. They view the missing limb or the disability and their brain registers pain, just as it does when we watch someone get hurt. They may become afraid that a similar thing will happen to them. It’s not the person so much that scares them; it’s the unpleasant sensations this sight provokes.
It doesn’t help that anxieties over body integrity and concerns about being kept “whole” are a natural source of worry to kids. Many young children even have anxieties around potty training because they envision their product as a part of themselves that is then being flushed down the drain. So seeing others with missing limbs or serious disabilities may ignite a type of primal fear in kids.
How to deal with your child’s fears of disabilities:
- Talk about what might have happened and explain that they can’t “catch” such injuries as they might catch a cold. If feasible, strike up a conversation with the person and encourage your child to ask directly what happened. Most people are perfectly fine with talking about it; it’s others pointing fingers and murmuring behind their back that bothers them.
- Be sure kids are aware that a missing limb doesn’t make someone a pirate and address other silly misconceptions they might have developed.