Your child doesn’t dare to talk to people he doesn’t know much about? How can you help your child express himself? Your toddler can speak, but he becomes mute in front of someone he knows little or nothing? Even if it’s normal, you can help him express himself.
Like adults, children are more comfortable talking to people they know well. However, they don’t yet have a lot of interaction experience. It is therefore normal for them to freeze when a stranger speaks to them.
The fact that a child doesn’t talk in front of someone they don’t know well doesn’t always mean they’re embarrassed. Most children need some time to get used to new people. In any case, it is good to respect the child’s rhythm. There is no need to worry as long as the child is not completely mute in a specific situation for more than a month (e.g., he or she never speaks in the child care setting).
As soon as your child can make requests to you with gestures or words, do not hesitate to place him/her in situations where he/she needs to express his/her needs to other adults. For example, let your child ask an aunt or uncle for something. By doing so, he will become more in his abilities and it will become easier for him. Your child will also remember a positive exchange with an adult other than you. This will encourage them to do it again.
When you encourage your child to talk to an adult, he understands that you are there to help him when needed.
When you encourage your child to talk to an adult, he or she understands that you are there to help if needed:
- Offer your child a choice of answers (e.g. “Is your favorite doggie a dog or a cat?”);
- start a sentence for him (ex: “This morning, we went…”);
- start a word for him (ex.: “She wonders how old you are! You’re d-d-d-d-d…”, for two years).
Your child feels that you are with him and that he can express himself without fear. He doesn’t have to talk much either, which is easier. If it’s still difficult for him, offer him a sentence adapted to his level to respond. For example, “You can say ‘no'” or “You can say, ‘I’m 3 years old.” »
When you help your child, but he or she is still silent, it is important to respect the child’s choice not to speak. This will help your child remember the exchange positively, even if he or she was not able to speak. Also, don’t excuse their attitude by saying that they are “embarrassed”, as your child may keep this label in mind and end up thinking it too. Instead, encourage them to try, even if they just smile (e.g., “You wonder who that is, huh?”). “You look like you’d like to talk to him! “»).
When your child starts talking to someone about himself (e.g., new teacher, doctor, family friend), stay close to him to encourage him to continue. For example, you can show and talk about things that interest your child to this person (e.g., his doggie, his little cars, etc.). This could make your toddler want to do the same thing.
If you are in front of a child who has difficulty expressing himself, you can use or parallel talk. Self-talk involves talking about your own gestures and thoughts aloud in front of the child (e.g., “I want to give the doll a bottle, I wonder where she is…”). The parallel talk consists of describing the child’s gestures (e.g., “You place the yellow block on the blue block”). These two simple methods can encourage a child to talk.
- It is normal for a child to need some time to get comfortable talking to someone they know little or nothing about.
- Invite your child to talk with people he knows less about.
- If your child refuses to talk, don’t make him or her do it.