Tel: (800) 248-2034
Ask Jonathan

Mom of bilingual 6 year old girl with Selective Mutism

Asked By: Anonymous     Views: 1,132 times

I’m a mom of a 6 year old SM girl. I’ve been reading information on your site, listening to “SM Self Help” CDs. I want to say a big thanks for giving us, parents of SM kids so much free or low-cost info with the message that a lot depends on US (and not the right therapist). It’s a hard information to come by.   I have 2 questions. I haven’t seen you discuss bilingualism anywhere (and I read that SM strikes quite a lot of bilingual kids). Anyway, we are bilingual family (English+Russian), and my daughter has been fully bilingual since the age of ~2-3 y.o. Not only are we bilingual, but we communicate a lot with other Russians. That must’ve influenced my daughter, because she has much much less anxiety in our native language, Russian, when it comes to talking. And what really surprises me is that when we are in a company of English-speaking people, and she gets anxious, she would speak to me in Russian using her normal voice. Why does that happen? I hear everywhere that the SM kids stay quite because they are “afraid” of their voice, it’s hard for them to get it out. Why would my daughter be anxious to answer in English, but have no problems answering me in Russian? And the second question. When she does that, before I used to shame her and tell her she shouldn’t be speaking in a language that another person doesn’t understand. I’ve stopped doing it, and just translate her answer to English. Would that be considered an enabling behavior? Should I just say she should say it in English herself?

Speaking in Russian (in an English speaking environment) is your child's "detachment", which means disconnect. This "disconnect" is from her visceral discomfort in the interactive scenario. Just as selective mutism is a manifestation of obsessive compulsive disorder (in general), relying on Russian is a compulsive default. "Shaming"; obviously is a non-productive response to your child. Thank you for your honesty. This process results in a toxic internal critical script and self-esteem challenges. Translating is "enabling", but learning how to not do it needs to occur in an organized and systematic fashion. A very productive, though challenging methodolgy, is "processing" with the SM child. This is a "process" of helping the child identify thoughts, feelings, and expectations. I suggest you listen to the interview at www.socialanxiety.com "Processing with 7 year old SM child".

The following is part of a collection of questions and sharing by our readership community about a wide variety of aspects of social anxiety. Dive in and receive practical insights and advice. If you have a question that is not included you can contact Jonathan at jberent@socialanxiety.com.

Relating to these Area of Concerns

Berent Associates, 11 Middleneck Rd. Suite # 313, Great Neck N.Y. 11021
Tel: (800) 248-2034, Fax: (516) 487-7414, E-mail: jberent@socialanxiety.com

Privacy Statement: All information collected from this website, including E-mail addresses, mailing addresses and personal
information, will not be shared or sold. Any information collected through this site will be used by Berent Associates only.