Generally young children are very accepting of facial difference and having a parent with facial palsy will often have little impact on a child’s life.
‘My mum says she is ugly. I think she is so pretty. Sometimes my friends ask why she tries to hide her face. I tell them why and they think she is so brave. They say she is pretty and I think she is too, but I wish she thought so, because everyone else does.’
Parents have reported the following issues which do sometimes arise:
- Young children may unwittingly mimic their parent’s face, for example, by winking one eye or pulling a smile to one side.
- When a child has to adjust to a parent who suddenly has facial paralysis, they may initially be worried and struggle to read the parent’s emotions. If mum or dad’s facial palsy is the result of surgery to remove a tumour, the child may also have to adapt to their parent having some degree of hearing loss.
- Children do occasionally get asked about their parent’s face by curious friends, many give a brief and honest answer which is normally accepted without further question. It’s important that children know how to answer questions about their parent’s facial palsy, should they be asked.
- If a child picks up on a parent’s feelings of unhappiness about their face, they may feel unable to ask questions about it.
- Older children may occasionally mimic their parent’s face in anger during disagreements.
- When a parent with facial palsy has low self-esteem, it can transfer to the child. If a mum or dad never accepts compliments or has little self-belief, children may pick up on this as being a normal reaction. If their parent does not believe when the child says they are beautiful, the child may question why they should believe it when it is said back to them.
- Some children have reported being bullied because of their parent’s facial palsy which they find very upsetting: the fact that someone is targeting a person they care a great deal about is often worse than being the target themselves. Thankfully this appears to only happen very rarely, but children do have rights under the law not to be subjected to this kind of harassment. See facial palsy and your rights for more information.
‘My beautiful baby boy (15 months then) would not come to me at all because he didn’t recognise me (after surgery to remove an acoustic neuroma). This one thing alone was one of the hardest things to bear at first and still moves me to tears as I recall it all. I will never forget that feeling. Also, when my youngest son was learning to talk, he would mimic me in holding a finger to his lip. This was because I was holding my lip up to let the pronunciation of words out but he didn’t know any different and copied me for years! Even today he has a lisp from seeing my droopy lip and doing the same.’
‘When my mum first came out of hospital and I saw her for the first time, I noticed how different she looked. I was nervous about seeing her as she had been away for what felt like a long time. We did not go up to her, but not because of how she looked, more because we were worried we would hurt her: all her hair had been shaved off and her head looked really sore. She was still my beautiful mum and it upset me that she couldn’t see what I saw.’
‘Now I am older I realise how much it affected my mum, not as much in appearance, but mentally. It affected the way she felt, she lost who she was for a while. She didn’t realise she wasn’t alone and that her family were here to support her; we felt helpless. The important thing is that mum is still alive and beautiful and no matter what, I will always love her. Sometimes I get upset when my mum is feeling low, but I know it is hard for her and that a hug always makes people feel better.’
‘It is important for children to know that it is normal to be affected by their mum or dad having facial palsy. For instance, becoming upset or angry, this is natural as it changes your way of life. It is okay to feel like this. Just let your feelings out and remember that you can always talk to people.’
Last reviewed: 19-08-2015 || Next review due: 19-08-2017