From the time my daughter was a toddler, she always seemed a little more reticent than the other children. She fiercely clung to my side at birthday parties and required that I stand next to her while she played at our neighborhood playground. She didn’t interact with her peers in the way that other children did and she wouldn’t speak to anyone outside of our home. When we received the official diagnosis of selective mutism at 3 years old, I was concerned! How will my child get through life if she can’t communicate with the people around her?! But once she began her treatment journey, I began to see things a bit differently. Here is what I’ve learned from my amazing little daughter:
Kids with selective mutism are STRONG
My daughter faces her biggest fears and conquers challenges EVERY DAY! There is no coasting when fighting selective mutism. She displays incredible gumption and persistence in working toward her brave talking goals and never gives up! People are quick to assume that children who struggle socially are not as competent or capable as their peers. I believe the opposite is true. The grit and resilience she is building now will last a lifetime.
My daugher’s struggles do not define her
What other people think doesn’t matter. When people meet a child with selective mutism or social anxiety, they might assume that the child is shy, unfriendly or rude. I’ve even noticed that some adults take my daughter’s silence personally and think she doesn’t like them. That is a lot of baggage to place on the shoulders of a small child. Realizing that it doesn’t matter what other people think is liberating. Don’t waste your time on those who judge or criticize your child or your family. Block out the armchair psychologists and surround yourself with people who understand and appreciate your dynamic child.
Patience and understanding are key
As I have learned more about selective mutism and anxiety, I have come to understand that my daughter’s behavior is simply a symptom. She isn’t being obstinate when she refuses to say “hello” or “thank you”. She is not being grumpy at social events. She is finding her own way to cope with her anxiety. And when I remind myself to not react emotionally and have compassion for how she is feeling, we all feel a little more relaxed.
I am a great mom
I have spent a lot of time judging myself as a parent and worrying that I caused my daughter’s anxiety. Over the years I’ve been inundated with parenting advice from people who are sure they have the solution to all of my daughter’s problems. With the help of amazing experts in the field, I now know that I just needed to learn a few new skills and do a little tweaking. My daughter and I are both learning how to best manage selective mutism every day…and we are doing it together! I couldn’t ask for a better partner or role model…my beautiful little girl!
Kristin Carey Leos
Board Member, Director of Membership and Special Initiatives