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How can I help my child with selective mutism?

In this recent blog post, you can read about selective mutism and how it differs from shyness. Something that parents of kids with selective mutism might wonder is how they can best help. Here are a few tips on what to do if you think (or know) that your child might suffer from selective mutism:

  • Seek help! Contacting a professional will help you identify if it’s selective mutism or something else. The professional will help you come up with a treatment plan while remaining respectful of your child’s needs and boundaries. You can contact us at Psykologiteamet and we would gladly help you.
  • Make sure you don’t enable the selective mutism. If you’re in a situation where your child isn’t talking, don’t stop talking to them or whisper. Continue making meaningful open-ended comments that encourage them to speak up. If you stop talking to the child or lower your voice to try to make them feel more comfortable, it might actually enable the behavior.
  • Don’t shame or pressure your child. Don’t say something like “why can’t you just talk?” The child probably wants to be able to talk, so these types of comments will just stress them out. If your child isn’t talking, try open-ended prompts rather than direct questions. This gives them space to speak up and answer these prompts without feeling pressured them to speak before they feel comfortable.
  • Devise situations where the child feels more comfortable speaking up. This might vary for every child, but some effective techniques include starting out by talking to someone through a walkie-talkie or from a far distance. Eventually, you can make that distance smaller until the child feels comfortable enough with this person to speak to them.
  • Acknowledge the selective mutism. Be deliberate about what you are doing so the child doesn’t feel like they’re being tricked. Let them know that you are going to try out some new strategies meant to get them to talk more, but make it clear that it isn’t supposed to be scary and that they don’t have to do anything they’re not comfortable with.

Having a child that won’t speak can be scary and overwhelming. It’s important to be patient and know that there is hope. Most children learn to speak in several social situations with time and practice. By seeking help and actively trying to work on it, your child will become more comfortable until it doesn’t significantly hinder them anymore.

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