Questions From Readers

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By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: January 9, 2011 | Topic: Questions from readers

Selective mutism may affect some Selective mutism may affect some "shy" children.

My mom smokes about a pack of cigarettes a day. She coughs a lot and I'm afraid she's going to get cancer and die. How can I get her to stop smoking?

You can't. However, you can let your mom know that you love her, need her, and are very worried about her. Tell her honestly how you feel, including how difficult it would be growing up without a mom.

You also need to protect yourself from the effects of your mom's smoking. Breathing your mom's secondhand smoke is dangerous, particularly if you have any type of health problems. If your mom continues to smoke, ask her to smoke outside or in a separate room in the house.

I have a senior in high school who is driving me crazy about college. She is smart, popular and academically gifted. However, I think she is looking at colleges that are below her potential. I have spoken to her endlessly about applying to more prestigious schools, as we have saved for years for her college education. Do you think she might be afraid of failing at a more difficult school?


However good your intentions, your extensive discussions with your daughter are clearly ineffective. This is an important decision for her, but it is her decision not yours. She can certainly obtain an excellent education without necessarily attending a prestigious school.

It's time for you to back off, and be supportive of whatever decision your daughter makes. Your role is to help her to get as much information as she can about a number of schools. Encourage her to stay in close contact with the guidance counselor. It would be very helpful for her to visit the colleges in person, and even go back for a second or third visit to the few schools that are of most interest.

This is an important time in your daughter's life, and you need to be supportive of her decision.

My 4-year-old son seems to have a problem talking when he is not at home. He gets along great with his siblings and both his dad and I. However, in preschool his teacher reports that he rarely talks and does so only in a whisper. I've noticed his has been happening in other places. Is this normal behavior for a 4-year old?

This is not typical behavior, and may be suggestive of a youngster with a selective mutism disorder. Such children, typically diagnosed at around your son's age, have no difficulty speaking in some situations, but are unable or unwilling to speak in other environments. If this problem has been going on for more than a few months, contact your family doctor and ask for a referral to a child psychologist or a speech-language pathologist.

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Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


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