Resilience is a person’s ability to bounce back from difficult experiences. It comes from toughness and strength, and also from hope and self-compassion.
Although some children have personalities that are naturally more resilient than others, all children may benefit from parent/caregiver support to help build their resilience. Perhaps especially for children who stutter, resilience can be important for coping with stuttering and growing to become independent and successful people.
Grappling with change and self-esteem is a part of growing up. And even in the most supportive school imaginable, a child who stutters may occasionally struggle. By nurturing a supportive environment at home and building up a child’s self-esteem, they will have more tools to respond to challenges everywhere else in life.
There is no magic formula to a loving, supportive home. But some of the most impactful ways that any parent/guardian can be there for their child are listening and showing empathy. The more a child feels heard or understood, the more they feel validated and that their voice matters. It can make a difference for you to show interest in what your child has to say before you jump in to give advice or argue your own point. Just as adults do, sometimes children simply need to express themselves.
And for a child who stutters, a parent’s listening can be even more critical to establish a safe environment. For example, say Alicia (a school-age girl who stutters) was excited to tell you about a new pet hamster in her classroom. If she had a big stutter and blocked when sharing her story, imagine how she might feel if you interrupted to remind her to “use a speech tool” or to “calm down.” How would she respond instead if you shared in her excitement and asked a follow-up question, or commented on her love of animals?
Although it can be hard sometimes, try to listen to what is being said instead of how it is being said. That doesn’t mean ignoring stuttering – after all, sometimes the stutter is what’s on a child’s mind in the first place. But you can build the foundation at home that a child is more than their speech, and that what they have to say matters.
Other important ingredients for resilience include a positive self-image and confidence to solve problems. As children of all ages face new and more difficult challenges in life, adults can help them to see their own strengths and to encourage growth.
• Offer encouragement & praise their efforts to keep trying and overcome challenging tasks. Help them to recognize their best qualities and accomplishments.
• Express appreciation for the good things in your lives. Acts of humility and gratitude (and random acts of kindness) can help children to see outside of themselves and their challenges.
• When possible, honestly give them choices and responsibilities of their own. Conversely, do not give false choices if that is not really an option.
• Acknowledge that it is okay to make mistakes and that nobody is perfect.
Importantly, you and other adults in a child’s world can be role models for resilience. Take time to consider how you respond to hard situations. Can you show patience and empathy to others? Can you find the positive when things don’t go as planned? Can you be okay with your mistakes, and take responsibility for your actions?
Your children will see these things in you, and it will help them to better understand themselves as they go to school and develop into independent young adults.
Resilience doesn’t have a lot to do with how much a person stutters. It’s about knowing that you are capable and good enough as you are – no matter how much you do or do not stutter.
Growing up and going to school can be a challenge for any child who stutters. But by building a community of support, understanding your administrative options for support in schools (as with an IEP or 504 Plan), and most importantly, by fostering confidence and resilience at home, your child will be in a position to thrive and to be their best self.
Reminder: SAY’s mission is to empower, educate, and support young people who stutter and the world that surrounds them. Reach out to us here at SAY with any additional questions/concerns about stuttering or supporting children who stutter in any setting.
Click here to read about: Building a Community of Support for a child who stutters
Click here to read about: Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)
Click here to read about: 504 Plans