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Any ideas for DD who´s too afraid to speak to her teacher

(18 Posts)
MunkyNuts Fri 18-Sep-09 10:38:20

My DD (4.5) is too afraid to speak to her teacher. We live in Spain and DH and I are English and we speak mainly English at home. DD will speak to her friends at school but freezes if the teacher tries to talk to her. She´s very afraid of getting things wrong in front of the teacher. She had the same teacher last year and perhaps managed to say adios a few times towards the end of the school year but has gone back to school after the summer break and is as frightened as ever. She has been wetting herself because she´s too afraid to ask if she can go to the loo. My DH and I were wondering if it would be a good idea to ask the teacher to visit us at home (she is learning English) on the pretence that she wants to learn some English vocab and ask DD to help out with the "lesson", perhaps draw some pictures, play some games etc. I am aware of some websites for selective mutism but there doesn´t seem to much focus for bilingual children. Any advice or ideas please...

MmeLindt Fri 18-Sep-09 10:50:16

Hmm. I am not sure that inviting her teacher into your home is a good idea, it might feel like an invasion of her safe place. Perhaps a meeting on neutral ground would be better.

What does the teacher say? How does she deal with your DD?

DD had the same problem at first when we moved to geneva, she also wet herself a few times as she did not want to ask where the loo was (or did not know how to ask, we has stupidly nor thought to make sure she knew.

Can you arrange a meeting with the teacher without your DD to talk it over?

MunkyNuts Fri 18-Sep-09 11:10:30

Hi MMeLindt, the teacher has been very patient so far and tells me she is not applying pressure but I am not sure if she realises how sensitive DD is. After DD wet herself she allowed the other girls to crowd round in the loo to see what was happening when she was getting changed, DD was upset enough without having an audience to deal with. DD knows where the loo is but you have to ask before using it if you are not going in the allotted loo time. I have met with the teacher before to talk about it and we decided to leave it and wait til she felt comfortable, but I´m worried that it is becoming a fixed pattern that the longer it goes on the harder it will be to break. How long was it before your DD spoke to her teacher in Geneva? Did you just wait?

MmeLindt Fri 18-Sep-09 12:22:58

DD settled in by about Xmas, we got here in October. She is still shy but is coping better.

Your poor DD, she sounds like she is having a really hard time.

Does she react like that when other adults speak to her, or is it just her teacher?

MunkyNuts Fri 18-Sep-09 14:56:22

She will speak to some adults (but not all) including Spanish adults, but she´s always shy with them at first. The real issue seems to be with teachers. I don´t think she´s spoken to her ballet teacher either but that´s not such a big deal as the focus is on dancing rather than talking. When DH collected her from school today she was bursting for a wee but had held it in, last year she could go during the break time without asking as there were loos accessible from the playground but there are building works at the moment and they are closed. She wants to do everything perfectly for the teacher and gets upset if she gets anything wrong in her work. Her Spanish is not as strong as her English so I think she´s really afraid of saying things incorrectly. She will speak in chorus with the rest of the class when they say "Buenos dias" and will sing on stage with them all for the Xmas show and things like that but can´t speak when the teacher talks to her directly.

Lifeinagoldfishbowl Fri 18-Sep-09 15:02:00

Can you start talking spanish at home, maybe get a spanish babysitter to come by and play with DD whilst you're about etc.

MunkyNuts Fri 18-Sep-09 15:17:37

We do practise Spanish at home, read books in Spanish and watch Spanish kids programmes on telly. A nice Spanish babysitter has been coming but won´t be able to any more bcos of work commitments so I´m looking out for another. DD just told me earlier that she felt like the little mermaid when she couldn´t speak and needed a magic fairy to come and help her.

castille Fri 18-Sep-09 15:27:37

My DD2 was very similar to your DD when we first moved back to France when she was 5. She had forgotten all her French and didn't speak at school for six months. But when she did finally settle in properly and talk, it was in complete and accurate sentences, and she could read, write and count in both languages by the end of that first school year, it was staggering.

With hindsight we can see it was because she is quite a perfectionist and didn't want to make mistakes, like your DD.

So don't panic, she's still young. I'm sure she'll come out of her shell when she's ready. In the meantime, can she do shorter days at school? This is what we did with DD2 - I collected her at lunchtime for ages because the morning was definitely enough for her in what she found to be a stressful situation.

MunkyNuts Fri 18-Sep-09 15:45:12

Thanks for that Castille, it´s so reassuring to hear that your daughter who´s also a perfectionist came out the other side. All the children do only mornings and some stay for lunch, we collect DD before lunch. I don´t think she finds the whole thing stressful and actually enjoys going to school and seeing her friends and being part of the class, its mostly to do with interacting directly with her teacher. Obviously this has stressful consequences when it results in wet pants. Not sure whether to put any focus on it at all with DD or if the pressure of that will make things worse.

MmeLindt Fri 18-Sep-09 16:11:33

Oh, what a sweetie. Could you give her a magic fairy doll to take with her to school? A really wee one that she could hold in her hand if she has to ask the teacher something?

Or what about a chain with a fairy charm on it so that she can wear it under her tshirt?

I did something similar for DD when she was struggling with starting school in Germany, left her something of mine (I think it was a lipsalve as it was the only thing in my bag that I could give her) It gave her strength to get through the day.

MmeLindt Fri 18-Sep-09 16:36:02


or this

I have just fallen for the second one and am going to send one to my Goddaughter.

MunkyNuts Fri 18-Sep-09 18:13:42

Thanks MmeLindt that´s a lovely idea, I was telling her that you can´t see real fairies but if we wished hard enough one would come in the night and wave her magic wand over her so that she got her voice back for the teacher - I think if the fairy left behind a necklace to say she´d been that would be really sweet and might help her.

MmeLindt Fri 18-Sep-09 18:24:08

It is your fault that I bought that necklace for my niece, and I will tell DH that it was you who made me do it.

MunkyNuts Fri 18-Sep-09 21:09:39

I think she´ll thank me for it, its very cute. I´m about to order one for my DD. Thanks to everyone who has responded for their input, I´m feeling less panicked, I will give her a bit more time and see if the fairy can work any magic.

exexpat Sat 03-Oct-09 18:14:35

Hi MunkyNuts, I'm a bit late to chime in on this thread, and by now the problem may have resolved itself, but just thought I'd add my experience for anyone stumbling across this thread like I did....

My DD went through several months of refusing to speak at nursery (in Japan) when she was three, just after we had spent a summer back in the UK, so she seemed to think she had forgotten all her Japanese. She had been chatting away perfectly happily in Japanese before the summer holiday, although her Japanese was always weaker than her English.

I tried all sorts of things, but the breakthrough came when (on someone else's recommendation) I got her together to play with a couple of other kids her age who were also non-native Japanese speakers. It then seemed to click with her that it was OK to speak Japanese even if you were not Japanese (or asian-looking - she was the only blonde child in the nursery), and you didn't have to speak it perfectly.

So, if you are still having trouble with your DD, it might be worth finding some other non-native Spanish speaking kids to show her she's not the only one who is not a perfect speaker, and it really doesn't matter.

MunkyNuts Tue 06-Oct-09 18:27:44

Thanks exexpat, I´m glad you found a solution, DD does have a couple of friends who aren´t Spanish and they speak Spanish together and I do agree that does help a lot. I just had a wonderful moment with DD and her teacher this afternoon. We had the fairy come and visit last night and she left a fairy charm necklace under her pillow. She wore this all day today and said the magic hadn´t worked as she still didn´t manage to speak to her teacher. I´d arranged for a meeting after school with DD and me (DD knew it was going to happen) on the pretence that her teacher wanted to learn some English vocab. So we took along picture cards and simple 2 piece jigsaws with different animals and colours on them. We then presented them to the teacher, she knew some of the words, pretended she didn´t know some of them and genuinely didn´t know some of them. DD helped her with the answers, we made it funny too - held up a green apple and said "is this a purple banana?" and things like that. DD spoke in English and when prompted translated into Spanish. I nearly wept. We made it very informal, DD sat on my knee until she got confident and then was on her feet once she got into the swing of it. I´m SO relieved. Hope it continues, she may fall back into silence when I´m not there tomorrow but at least she´s broken the ice, and we can do more of these sessions in the future. Thanks to everyone who gave advice on this thread and esp to Mme Lindt for the wonderful necklace idea.

MunkyNuts Tue 06-Oct-09 18:28:27


MmeGoblindt Mon 12-Oct-09 08:36:34

Oh, how fabulous. I came on to see how she is getting on, so glad the fairy helped.

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