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How can I help my partner's 11-year-old daughter deal with anxiety?

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Hi Mark,

I don't know if you can help me, but my partner has an 11-year-old daughter who suffers greatly with anxiety and also has selective mutism. The problem is the amount of schooling she is missing because of this problem.

I myself have had anxiety issues for many years and worse since a few strokes. I see my partner getting upset about his daughter on a daily basis. He is working with the school and education authority to help his daughter, but it is stressing him out, which is then stressing me out. His daughter resides with her mum, who does not seem to be able to sort things out for her daughter, although I believe she is doing the best she can given the amount of stress this is causing for everyone.

But what is most important is the 11-year-old child stuck in the middle of all this. We are all trying to support/help her the best we can and are not pushing her in her mutism, so as not to put more stress on her.

I would like to know how, in your opinion, I could best help support the child. I have lots of patience with her when I see her, as I feel it's important for her to feel safe and as relaxed as possible with her dad's new partner. I also include her in baking, playing games, asking her opinion on what she would like to do. We take her out to have fun, play in the parks, take scenic walks, etc. Is there anything else you feel I could or should be doing to help her better than I am already trying to do? I also make sure I step back to allow her time alone with her dad, which she enjoys.

I also read someone else's problem they wrote you. I could feel for the lady's feelings, as I too have had bad relationships in the past and was abused as a child by people close to me. Although I think this is where my anxiety comes from, I find it hard to accept someone else's behaviour has ruined my life for over 40 years. I am insecure, at times unbelieving that I deserve a good relationship with my partner now, who is a great man. I get afraid that other people's issues will eventually break us up because I am still recovering from my last stroke.

Yet I feel I need to help this young girl achieve a better life for herself than I have been able to because of my own anxiety issues over the years. She is a lovely child and deserves better than the way her life is heading at the moment, as does her dad. I want to help her get there and be proud and confident of herself.

Thanks for your reply in advance. It is much appreciated by us all.

This question was submitted by 'Lisa'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hi Lisa and thank you for writing in.

I must say, the daughter of your partner is certainly lucky that such a caring, sensitive, and kind person as you undoubtedly are (or sound to me) is there for her and her father. It sounds like you are doing all the right things.

Anxiety has a way (as you know) of making us feel as though we have lost control. Selective mutism is a way of controlling at least one aspect of reality. There may also be a symbolic element to selective mutism, in that those who feel powerfully - but perhaps in an unexamined, unconscious way - that they have no or little voice may find this psychological sense becomes literalized as a physical problem, just as when people who find a piece of information 'hard to swallow' may literally cough and splutter.

You don't say what particularly or specifically your partner's daughter tends to get anxious about. But if she is missing schooling, I'm guessing it might be around either social mixing, the pressures of school, or maybe both. It might be that she will benefit from one of our downloads for children. Many of the downloads contain therapeutic stories that both match problem patterns and offer solutions on an unconscious level, as children learn so powerfully through metaphor and analogy, especially when it isn't laid out consciously. And if there isn't a specific one here you feel would be right for her, then something generic like 'Happy Bedtime' may help her lower general stress levels, causing her to have knock-on benefits in more specific areas.

Keep doing what you are doing, keep supporting her, but also supporting yourself and your relationship.

All best wishes,


watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - January 14th, 2015 in

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