How to talk openly with your child about stuttering

One of the first questions parents of young children who stutter often ask me is, “Should we talk at home about stuttering?” I often get uncertain , “We weren’t sure how to start the discussion”, or “we don’t want him to become self-conscious so we haven’t pointed it out”. And most of the time when I ask the follow up question, “do you think he’s aware of his stutter?”, I get a cautious affirmative. “Yeah, I think so”.

First and foremost, I like to let parents know that the discomfort they feel is perfectly natural. This is an important discussion and as is the case with anything important, parents often report feeling nervous about starting this discussion. So if you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, nervous, or unsure how to begin, know that you are not alone in feeling this way.

Simply wanting to start this discussion is a huge, crucial step. Celebrate it! I know that as a speech-language pathologist, I certainly do! I love it when my clients’ parents approach me to let me know they are ready and even eager to start talking about stuttering openly.

So, now that we are ready, HOW do we start? My advice – don’t overthink it. One way to go about it is if you notice your child stutter when they’re talking to you –

  1. let them finish their message
  2. find a natural pause in the conversation to take your turn to speak
  3. respond to their message (if they asked you a question, answer it. If they relayed something that warrants a comment, go ahead and comment. t’s always important to let them know that you are listening to WHAT they say, not just HOW they say it).
  4. then, say something like, “I noticed you stuttered just now, how did that feel?”
  5. accept what they tell you, no matter how much or little they want to say.

The first time you talk about it, you may get a short response like, “okay” or “fine”. That’s okay! They will share more when they are ready. And to help them feel ready, we can work on:

  • normalizing the use of the word “stutter”
  • normalizing the discussion of stuttering (point it out in books/TV/movies if you come across it just like you would with any other fun similarity your child shares with someone – “Hey ___ stutters! Did you know that? That’s cool!” like “Hey ___ also plays the flute, that’s cool!”)
  • being present and patient when listening
  • letting them know you are there to talk with when they want to

Drop a comment to let me know what tools you like to use when starting important discussions with your clients and children!

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