5th December 2022
After a particularly fraught festive season last year, Heather Brigden-McLean tells us what she'll be doing differently this Christmas to help her daughter feel more comfortable with her speech.
Christmas is coming, the most exciting and magical time of the year! However, as a parent of a child who stammers I find this magic doesn't always come so easy. In fact, last year I remember it being a crazy, confusing, frustrating time where we had no control and no way to help our daughter Jasmine when she was struggling with her speech.
Christmas always brings a hundred and one things to do with the kids and it's nothing but full on elves, Santa visits, Christmas songs, nativity plays, parties… the list goes on.
I have spoken to other parents and it seems many of us have experienced our child stammering a lot more at this time of year. The sheer excitement and extra demand on their thought process can make it more of a challenge to speak fluently. Whilst this isn't an issue in itself, I find it can cause my daughter to become tired easily, frustrated and cross at times.
I feel that by acknowledging that this might be a tricky time for her will help us prepare, as well as be proactive and confident in helping her enjoy all that Christmas has to offer.
I really want to make the Christmas magic easier for her to enjoy this year, as last year it became a bit fraught! So, after some thought I decided to prepare in advance and come up with a list of things to remember or try, in the hope that they might help Jasmine to stop feeling these negative emotions.
- I will try to remember that you don't have to do it all. Cramming in too much can be overwhelming, so I plan to pick some key Christmas outings and stick to that list. Christmas lights, ice skating, Santa visits, treasure hunts, parties, seeing friends… they are all great, but we don't need to do them all (especially in one weekend!).
- I know school will be really busy, with songs to learn, cards being made and general excitement reaching fever pitch! I'm going to try and balance this by keeping the diary as clear as possible after school each day. I will also try adding in more special time and a low distraction environment, such as less TV, when she seems to be struggling.
- Make time for non-verbal activities such as decorating the tree, Christmas baking or crafts. I always find this a great way to spend time with Jasmine without placing any pressure on her to talk. Great if she wants to chat, but it's not essential and often allows some downtime.
- Time outside exploring always seems to help Jasmine. It's as though the change in scenery and fresh air resets her somehow. I will try to make time to look for leaves or feed the ducks together at least a couple of times a week if I can.
- I will try to remind myself that increased stammering is only a problem if Jasmine sees it that way. If she is happy and not frustrated or over-tired, then that's fine and we shouldn't worry. I have time, I can wait for her to finish, and I encourage other people to do the same.
Most importantly, I want to have fun as a family and be led by Jasmine in what she needs. Understanding that this is a time of increased demand for her will make this so much easier this year. Last year we had no idea what made her stammer fluctuate, but thanks to help from her speech therapist at the Michael Palin Centre and the support from the STAMMA community, we know so much more now. I feel that by acknowledging that this might be a tricky time for her will help us prepare, as well as be proactive and confident in helping her enjoy all that Christmas has to offer.
Wishing everyone in the STAMMA community a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year; thanks for your support in 2022, we can't wait to see what comes next.
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The Michael Palin Centre for Stammering is one of a number of options for therapy. See our Therapy & Courses section for the full list of options.