TODAY | December 01, 2012
>>> this morning on "today's" parenting, raising a child who is very different from you. andrew solomon , nice to have you with us. as many parents know, their kids are all going to be a little bit different. when your child is very different from you, you look at things like dwarfism, a deaf child , an autistic child , a child of rape, a child who commits a crime. it's a tough thing sometimes for a parent to reconcile with.
>> it can be very tough for a parent to reconcile with. my view is that all parents have to view can differences in their children, but there is no question that some children are born with a set of priority that are completely foreign to his or her parents and the parents have to learn a whole new culture in order to take care of their and child .
>> you spoke with 300 families over 11 years but really this grew out of your own experience. you were dyslexic and then you discovered you were gay. how did your parents handle that?
>> when it became clear that i was dyslexic, my mother really focussed in on teaching me to read. obviously it worked. i've had many problems in life, but not learning to read isn't one of them. we really worked on that and we were able to change that. when i was older and i began to realize that i was gay, my family was very uncomfortable with that and they had a hard time with it. and i think in a curious way, the fact that they could fix the dyslexia left them thinking they should be able to fix the next thing that came along. of course, they couldn't. and it was a journey for me to get to the point of accepting myself and once i did that, they actually were very accepting.
>> one thing that's hard for a lot of people to reconcile is children who commit crimes, and there is, you know, definitely a tendency to look immediately at the parents and say what did they do to this child to create a child who committed a crime. you spent a lot of time with the parents of dylan klebold . sue said i think the other parents believed they had experienced loss and i had not because their children were a value and mine was not. it's not something you think about.
>> it's not, but i have to tell you that since i published that, i have had literally hundreds of letters that are coming to me from other parents of people who committed other crimes saying thank goodness someone finally is telling our story. all of these parents have been through that terrible experience of being blamed, and some of them have behaved in ways that really have exacerbated their children's criminal tendencies. but mostly, they really have done their best with their kids and their kids turned out this way and they don't know what to do. i ended up thinking it felt as much like an illness to them as any of the illnesses i wrote about. when i was talking to sue klebold, i said it must have been so hard to go on loving dylan after this happened. she said oh no, it was hard to understand, it was hard to reconcile with, it was hard to incorporate into my understanding of the world, but loving him, that part was always easy for me.
>> what is the most important thing that you discovered a parent can do to help their child ?
>> i think children need to be seen and i think they need to be loved and i think they need to be accepted and it's not always possible to do all three of those things at the same time. but i think if you have a child who is different from you in some way, and instead of saying i'm going to make you the same as me, you say this is alien to me, it's foreign to me, it's hard for me, but i'm going to try to respect who you are. if you can get that loving message through, then the rest of sit easy.
>> loving message. a lot of it comes down to love. andrew, pleasure to have you with us.
>> great to be here, thank you.
>> the book is called "far from the tree." we're back after these messages. oh...santa. [