“HELP, What am I going to do?”
Helpful Tips for Reducing Back to School Stress …
Every new school year is stress evoking, but this year is unlike any other. Now, all the children are in the same boat as far as the increased stress, not only those who suffer from selective mutism. Maybe this can be a good thing for our kiddos, since they aren’t alone in their worries.
Whether attending school in person, online or a combination of both, this year will be like no other. It will take time to adapt for everyone involved. Here are some suggestions for making the school year flow easier:
- Parents need to work together
- Advocate for your SM child
- Listen to your child’s concerns
- Allow extra time for tasks
- Don’t avoid anxiety inducing activities
Let’s look at each of those points closer. The first one says parents need to work together. Oftentimes, one parent understands selective mutism is a real anxiety disorder while the other parent believes it’s only a behavior issue. This miscommunication can cause confusion with the child and increase their anxiety. Education is key. Everyone involved in raising the child needs to understand the disorder.
Which brings us to the advocating for your child. Educating others on selective mutism starts with the parents. Don’t assume the school or teacher already know about the issue because it’s written somewhere in a chart. Be proactive and educate them about the details of your child. The more they know, the better equipped they will be to correctly handle situations with your child.
Listening to your child and allowing them freedom to express how they feel can be a game changer. Avoid the automatic reply we often give (with our best intentions) when we say, “You don’t need to worry,” or “That’s silly, it’ll be fine.” Instead just listen to your child. Even if it does sound silly to you, don’t belittle their feelings. Instead you can say, “I hear you and understand your concerns.” Reassure without diminishing their voice. And remember to praise their bravery.
Allow extra time during these days leading up to a beginning school Right now, anxiety is high for everyone, especially your selective mutism child. We know when a SM child feels pressured, they often shut down. Feeling rushed can cause that pressure, resulting in the same reaction. So, allow them extra time and understanding.
One of the defenses we have as parents is to protect our children. Often, we try to avoid those anxiety inducing activities in a way of protecting them. But how will they ever learn to deal with life’s stressors if we are constantly sheltering? It is better to allow them to face the anxiety inducing activity but be there for them when they are anxious.
Good luck with this new adventure you are taking with your child. Together you are unstoppable!