"Sounds of Children's
By David A. Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP
Children speak volumes through their
silence. Children can be silent for many reasons. We should never forget
what my colleague Dr. Kenneth V. Hardy explains as the sharp distinction
between children choosing to remain quiet versus being silenced. Some
young children remain quiet because they are timid and shy or anxious
which in extreme cases can lead to selective mutism. These children can
be helped to find their voice with gentle encouragement and creating a
relaxed natural context for them to speak.
Some children may speak loudly but feel
silenced because no one is listening anymore. You see this with angry
children who feel they have to become louder and louder because they
donít feel they are being heard. With these children, creating a safe
place and time within the family for them to speak and more importantly
to be heard can dramatically decrease their anger and acting-out
Other children are silenced because it
is not safe for them to speak. Silencing of victims is a core dynamic of
oppression of all forms. Children who are exposed to violence, abuse,
discrimination, threats, explicit or veiled, will not speak because it
is dangerous to do so. I have worked with many children who were
directly threatened bodily harm if they ever told of the abuse they
suffered (Crenshaw, Boswell, Guare, & Ying-ling, 1986b; Crenshaw, Rudy,
Triemer, and Zingaro, 1986b). This forced silence has often been a
secondary source of trauma layered on the original abuse experiences
these children suffered. For these children helping them find their
voice requires slow, patient, empathic and compassionate work to build
enough trust in the therapeutic context that they feel safe enough to
disclose the unspeakable. I never cease to be amazed by the courage
these children manifest when they break their silence.
Boswell, J., Guare, R., & Ying-ling, C. (1986a). Intensive psychotherapy
of repeatedly and severely traumatized children. Residential Group
Care and Treatment, 3, 17-36.
Rudy, C., Triemer, D., & Zingaro, D. (1986b). Psychotherapy with abused
children: Breaking the silent bond. Residential Group Care and
Treatment, 3, 25-38.
Copyright © 2007 by David A.
Crenshaw, Ph.D., ABPP. All rights reserved.