Dear parents. Lately I’ve been thinking more about the fear we have of our children being teased because of their stutter/stammer. We sometimes obsess – I know, I’ve been there. We cry, we hurt, we almost become paralyzed with fear for what might happen.
Having fear and anxiety ahead of time doesn’t always prevent things from happening, it only takes its toll on our happiness (for both you AND your child, and probably the rest of the family!). Being prepared can make a world of difference. Being prepared is different from fearfully obsessing. How do you prepare a child for this moment? How do you prepare yourself?
First off, know you will survive as will your child. You’ll get through it and life will go on. It will hurt at the moment, but obsessing and fearing only extends that moment, allowing the pain to permeate and negatively impact far more of your world than it needs or deserves to. You WILL survive.
When you start to feel that fear, stop and think of what will shift that feeling to one of empowerment. Even before anything happens, share with your child about a time you were teased and how you got through it. You might have to make something up – if you’re lucky! Or you might have to revise the details a bit to convey an empowering outcome and that’s okay too. Focus on how it didn’t break you, how it wasn’t the end of the world, how you were so grateful to have people in your life who loved you and enjoyed you for who you are. You can even do this with a child as young as three, just keep it simple. You can also role play – you don’t even have to make it be about your child’s speech. Kids love to pretend – make it fun and silly and have them act out how they might respond to being teased, You can even don costumes and do a play for the family – get creative!
Think, feel, and behave in a way that you would want your child to think, feel, and behave. You want them to not live in fear of stuttering/stammering. You want them to feel confident and empowered to speak out and have their voices heard. You want them to focus on the opportunities and possibilities, not on a made-up future of fear and angst. So you do the same! It’s not what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us that matters. To an extent, as parents, we all have to protect our children, but the most important job is to empower them with the life skills they need to survive and thrive…and they will!
Keep them talking and engaged in the world around them!