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Difficult weekend with DD (13) and I don't think I handled it well

(19 Posts)
OccamsLadyshave Sun 07-Dec-14 22:12:57

We've been visiting my parents this weekend for a big family get together. I have a large, noisy family and DD has never coped with them very well. She doesn't really speak to anybody, even one on one, and is unable to actually speak to anyone except my mum, and even then only when no one else is there. She can barely even speak to my dad, and she sees him all the time. There were other teens there, and they are all very outgoing, confident types who are very good at sitting next to various aunties and having a chat.

In the past we've always had basic rules - say please, say thank you and goodbye, and answer direct questions. These have always had mixed success, but I have developed a thick skin over the years, and when she was a toddler / primary age I always felt any judging (and there is plenty) was directed at me.

She's 13 now, and I think the dynamic has changed. I don't feel I'm getting judged any more, it feels like she is. Extended family commiserate with me about her "rudeness" as they see it. We no longer get "Isn't she shy?" but now get "Oh dear - stroppy teenager".

I try really hard not to care what they all think, but it's very difficult. Especially when her behaviour is actually rude, or when she just doesn't even answer people.

Today as we were leaving, I took her to one side and threatened that if she didn't say goodbye and thank you, she wouldn't be going to an event later this week that she's really looking forward to. It was probably a bit of an empty threat, but it did the trick and she managed to say goodbye. The second we got in the car she started chatting away to me and laughing, and I just felt like bursting into tears, because she'd sat with her head down looking depressed all afternoon. I'm ashamed to say I had a massive go at her, and told her I was embarrassed and ashamed by her behaviour. I really regret it now, because I think I've just made her even more conscious of her behaviour.

What I really want is to find a way for her to be more able to speak to them without being threatened and bullied by me. Either that or to detach and stop caring. I'm not sure which would be the best way to go.

clairewitchproject Sun 07-Dec-14 22:21:46

Your daughter has selective mutism. I know because my son has it too. This is not about being rude, controlling, or stroppy. It is a condition of social anxiety. And actually responding to greetings is one of the hardest things you can ask a child with SM to do, because of the weight of social expectation in greeting someone (and the fact that this will have been a point on which she will have been pressured repeatedly over the years).

I would really really recommend that you join the Selective Mutism information and resource association (SMIRA) site on facebook (assuming you are on). Selective mutism is treatable but it needs family to lay off on the pressure and a lot of understanding from everyone. Please come and join us. Your daughter isn't rude or choosing when and who to speak with. She is anxious and she needs help not judgement.

clairewitchproject Sun 07-Dec-14 22:23:12

(yes you can have selective mutism even if you can 'answer but not initiate' - this is the form my son has. It is the least well recognised form and very very often misjudged as rudeness).

FunkyBoldRibena Sun 07-Dec-14 22:23:30

Have you thought about finding out why?

LaurieFairyCake Sun 07-Dec-14 22:26:10

Oh dear, you're last paragraph is all about how you want her to be 'normal' so you don't look bad/so she doesn't look bad.

Guess what, she isn't. And you need to support her with her anxiety.

Your family are dreadful and you need to very loudly and verbally tell them all off at once at a party like the one you've just attended.

Look how happy she was when she got you to herself in the car sad

She doesn't mean and she can't help it

clairewitchproject Sun 07-Dec-14 22:27:35

Sorry - probably ought to explain what SM is. It includes that very typical head down frozen, stiff expressionless posture as well....


Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child's inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed.

More than 90% of children with Selective Mutism also have social phobia or social anxiety.This disorder is quite debilitating and painful to the child. Children and adolescents with Selective Mutism have an actual FEAR of speaking and of social interactions where there is an expectation to speak and communicate. Many children with Selective Mutism have great difficulty responding or initiating communication in a nonverbal manner; therefore social engagement may be compromised in many children when confronted by others or in an overwhelming setting where they sense a feeling of expectation.

Not all children manifest their anxiety in the same way. Some may be completely mute and unable to speak or communicate to anyone in a social setting, others may be able to speak to a select few or perhaps whisper. Some children may stand motionless with fear as they are confronted with specific social settings. They may freeze, be expressionless, unemotional and may be socially isolated.

gamerchick Sun 07-Dec-14 22:28:20

Even before I got to the comments I felt heartfelt sorry for your daughter. You were bang out of order having a go at her. Poor little bugger. Go give her a squeeze sad

clairewitchproject Sun 07-Dec-14 22:33:42

In defence of OP it is IMMENSELY frustrating having a kid with SM and that is when I know he isn't doing it on purpose! It does look immensely rude and is heartbreaking for family if they don't understand - they don't understand why this child is apparently so entirely uninterested in them and 'ignores' them or answers in the barest of brief 'yes/no' answers. In a 4 year old it is fogiven as 'shyness' but in a 13 year old it gets interprested as 'rude'. It is heartbreaking and I don't blame the OP one bit for her reaction if she wasn't sure of the root cause of her DD's issue.

OccamsLadyshave Sun 07-Dec-14 22:39:26

Wow lots of responses. Yes I totally know I was out of order, which is why I posted. I have apologised and bought her chocolate cake and we have had a talk.

I totally get how hard it is. I was very similar as a teen, and would go whole days at school not speaking to anyone. I was also incapable of making small talk with this same family group. I hate that she is the same as me. I think that's why I got so upset.

Thank you so much clairewitch. I never would have thought it would be SM. I don't know much about it but will go off and have a read.

clairewitchproject Sun 07-Dec-14 22:44:27

Occam - it definitely is. Don't let anyone tell you that SM children are totally silent. It was that gem of misinformation that kept my son undiagnosed until he was 10. The form that allows for response but not initiation is called 'low profile' SM. The totally silent (better recognised) form is called 'high profile' SM.

As I said the best resource is the SMIRA closed group on facebook. Lots of knowledgeable helpful non-judgemental people and loads of useful resources, including files about how to help teens with SM.

LaurieFairyCake Sun 07-Dec-14 22:45:24

I can't believe your bloody family saw you do it as a child and not help you either!!!

Omfg, how shitty for you. How awful that they're repeating the same pattern.

OccamsLadyshave Sun 07-Dec-14 23:03:05

I'm so glad I posted this now. I thought I'd just get lots of responses saying to take her phone away! Not much point as she never uses it anyway.

I've had a read and she ticks pretty much every box. She's fine with her friends, and will talk to some teachers (and even occasionally gets in trouble for chatting in class) but she has some teachers she won't speak to at all. She won't order in restaurants and she has never ever answered the phone because she doesn't know who it is.

clairewitchproject Sun 07-Dec-14 23:14:36

She sounds exactly the same profile as my 13 year old ds. He speaks freely to friends, will answer in class when confident that he knows the answer,, but never asks for help or for the toilet (his bladder is irinclad after years of holdng all day), can't order in restaurants or speak on the phone. He goes out with a support worker we employ weekly and has managed to ordersmoothie in mcdonalds recently using his voice :-) . His presentation varies from frozen (when exoecpeted to converse with high staus individuals like the head teacher or psychiatrist) to a bit disinhibited (with the school senco who he meets daily in a mentoring session- he has aspergers too which makes things a bit more complex.
I hope this is the start of good things fir your dd :-)

clairewitchproject Sun 07-Dec-14 23:24:02

....and he has a phone he never uses! In fact he hasn't even charged it for the last month....

ooooooooooooooohYessssssssssss Sun 07-Dec-14 23:29:27

I wouldn't be so quick to label her with anything. Incorrectly labelling her might give her an 'excuse' to be quiet. My two eldest were extremely reserved as children and could appear a bit miserable and weird despite being happy confident kids. They just didn't do small talk. As long as they were polite I left them be. They have grown up just fine.

My DH can be very reserved in company so I figured they took after him.

AliMonkey Sun 07-Dec-14 23:57:08

Disagree with PP who says don't be too quick to label - although agree with that principle in general. OP's dd has been like that for years. Also even if not SM (which does indeed vary greatly in form) then the ways to deal with SM also work well with those who are just shy or anxious.

My DS aged 7 has SM and has been working with a TA using the Breaking Down Barriers programme for last 18 months and we are really seeing results. Has gone from not talking at all to teachers, only talking to certain TAs if in separate room with door closed, not talking to other children in classroom, not talking to me or DH or DS if could be overheard by anyone except us, not talking to my in laws, never ordering in restaurant ... to speaking to teacher for first time last week, chatting happily to TA and classmates even if can be overheard, ordering in restaurants (still in whisper and won't look at waiter when he does it) and speaking to in laws if asked a question. Still a long way to go but is great progress given where we started.

It is worth looking into getting her help - via SENCO or GP as it really can work. Also read widely about SM (Maggie Johnson does some good books) as understanding it really helps your frustration (although I do still get frustrated sometimes I know that showing it really won't help DS). There's a really good simple book ("let me tell you about SM" I think) which will both help her understand that it's not just her and I have found really helpful to show family so they understand - probably aimed at younger children but I think you would still find helpful.

anthropology Mon 08-Dec-14 19:14:56

Occams if she struggles socially for whatever reason (my DD turned out to be slightly asd and reading this probably was SM although we didnt call it anything ) 13/14 is when things will get more complicated with peers and teachers as everyone moves on in terms of communication skills. If she is doing well with friends and school, please try to get family on side, especially if there are a lot of 'big'voices, not by identifying her as having a problem but saying everyone finds social situations different . She probably doesnt understand why she finds it hard if it is SM or any other reason, but needs time and support to learn how to feel comfortable socially. My DD finds shops hard. I would manage family contact and maybe meet in smaller groups if thats easier, but importantly let your DD know that if she finds situations difficult, its not uncommon, she can talk to you explaining there might be help that gives her confidence in these situations. . Guiding kids through early teens if they are sensitive is challenging. I didnt even realise my DD struggled so much, as she masked a lot and ironically by pushing her to be less shy in situations, she was such a good actor, no one believed she was struggling until she suffered depression .....You sound like a good mum and have learnt to cope as an adult, so help her understand that with patience and help, it can get easier. best of luck.

constantlyconfused Mon 08-Dec-14 20:23:46

Is she chatty at school? DD is like this with my family but a massive extrovert with her friends. I totally get your frustrations as my family try but DD just eyerolls or gives one word "fine" no "im fine thanks how are you" yet she is soooo chatty with her friends.

Claybury Tue 09-Dec-14 15:49:07

DS(17) is barely able to speak with anyone in my extended family. They have commented to me about him, that they find him ' not unpleasant just withdrawn'. He has lots of friends, likes school and is always out with his peer group at the weekend. Some teens just do not know what to say to adults and vice versa. Often adult conversation comes across unintentionally as interrogation as they try to open conversations with questions. We have tried to get him to engage better but it just doesn't come easy to him.
I'm quite sure DS will grow out of it.
No idea if this is the case or not with OP, just saying it doesn't sound that odd to me !

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