Selective mutism: 2 practical tips to help with their anxiety

Children who have selective mutism are anxious. Anxiety changes from child to child and it’s for this reason that it important to understand anxiety and use the right strategies.
Today we ate going to explore 2 strategies to start using with your child.

1. Stop Reassuring Your Child.

Yes. You read that right. I am telling you to stop doing something that sounds completely counter-intuitive, right?

I need you stop telling you child that “everything is going to be okay” and “there is nothing to worry about.” I know you have good intentions with these phrases, after all… you just want to comfort your grieving child.

However when you tell them that there is nothing to worry about, is making them feel as if their worries are not important. Maybe something is wrong with them if they are worrying. I am sure that is the opposite of what you are attempting to do.

In addition, your reassuring is not actually going to be heard. Due to the chemicals being dumped by into the brain during the moment of a crisis, your child is unable to reason or understand the reassuring comments you are trying to give them.
What can you do instead?

Validate.

Next time your child is worried and upset, let them know you hear what they are saying and you are there for them. Listen to their worries and let them know that together you will go through this.
Take a moment to take a few deep breathes. Validate their feelings and then once they have reached a state of calm you can work together to find some solutions.

2. NAME THE FEELING

When you notice that your child is worried and doe not speak , it can help later on when you are alone to try to name together the emotion they are feeling. Try the following:
  • I notice you are… (describe the emotion you think you see… upset, scared, frustrated, etc) Pick only one.
  • I see your …(describe their body movements, their breathing, their actions).
  • Can you name the feeling you are having?
Keep a diary or a note…
…I will write more tips..
Anna Biavati-Smith
Specialist Speech and Language Therapist
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