Anxiety and Stuttering in the Two-Year Old: How Do We Serve as Emotional Coaches for Our Kids?

The day after we returned home from a recent trip, little boy began repeating words.  It wasn’t just the three or four repeats of a word or a sound that happen here and there.  It was really intense repetition.  It began with, “I want want want want.  I I I I I I want I want I want I want” and evolved into a repeating of almost everything in a sentence.  There were some attempts by our talkative little boy that my husband and I couldn’t even discern.

We ignored the repeated words and patiently waited for the message he was communicating.  We tried not to draw attention to it, but it was worrisome and we didn’t really know what triggered it.

I spoke to a speech pathologist/ friend and she validated everything we were noticing as well as asked if there were particular times or topics that triggered it more.  No.  We did know that he was a bit run down from traveling, but the dysfluency was still there after a good sleep.  Then she asked if anything had troubled him during our trip.  “No,” I responded immediately.  “It was a good trip.  He enjoyed all the experiences.”

The speech pathologist then shared that sometimes kids will have anxiety and it is possible that the anxiety might manifest itself in the same area where our boy excels – language.

And then I began thinking about my sweet little boy who at age two remembers to cover his mouth when he coughs, who is very earnest and focused about handing his boarding pass to the agent at the gate, who is very conscientous about staying behind the person in front of us in line…

And then I began thinking that all that work he was doing to do things right was probably a source of anxiety.  The anxiety led to the effort?  The effort led to the anxiety?  They just kind of go hand in hand.

And I began seeing my boy in a new light.

He’s such a sweety, and he’s thoughtful and conscientous (and sassy and obnoxious), and grappling with some very big feelings.

I once read that a parent’s job is to be an emotional coach and I think about that even more.

A friend of ours gave us the children’s book “Courage” which we read on the plane.  Last night at work, he discovered the paper shredder and he wanted me to shred paper while he stood across the room in the doorway.  Over the course of an hour, he moved closer, sat on my lap while I shredded, and then asked to shred a piece himself.

We talked about how it was scary and how he used courage.  Amazing to me to have such a conversation with such a little human, but I think, more than ever, my sensitive little peekachoo, needs adults to guide him through these stressful times so he grows up feeling like he can take on the stress around him.

What are the areas that you have served as an emotional coach?  And how have you tackled them?

(The dysfluency faded away within a week, but I imagine it might return again here and there.)

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