Tap away kids’ anxiety in 4 easy steps with “EFT

It’s a fact that we all experience stress and anxiety in our lives growing up (and well into adulthood!). However, for some, a normal response to stressful situations becomes abnormal when the negative emotions and responses don’t go away once a stressful situation is removed.

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in the country. It is estimated that one in four people experience it in their lifetime. What’s even more concerning is the number of kids experiencing Anxiety or being diagnosed with “Anxiety Disorder”.

Over the years I’ve been in practice, I have seen an increase in the amount of kids coming to me with separation anxiety, school stress, self-image issues, eating disorders and more. Maybe it’s a sign of the times, maybe we’ve got better at identifying it, but at the end of the day, it can leave us as parents feeling helpless as to where to start in order to support them.

Aside from conventional “talk therapy”, medication and familial support, there is a relatively new, clinically proven self-help method that is literally, “at your fingertips”. It’scalled EFT – “Emotional Freedom Technique”. Some may know it as “tapping” – because that’s exactly what it involves!

By now you’re probably thinking it’s a bit woo-woo and left-of-field but what you may not know is there is a growing body of clinical evidence suggesting it can greatly reduce the impact of anxiety (among other emotional issues) in adults and kids alike.

Often referred to as “emotional acupuncture without needles”, EFT is used by therapists, psychologists and millions worldwide to ease emotional distress and clear negative emotions, beliefs and memories and is setting a new tone for how we manage stress in the modern world.

EFT works by tapping a series of acupressure points on the face and upper body with two fingers whilst voicing our issue. This helps to “short-circuit” the fight or flight (stress) response and re-wire our brain to think more clearly about the problem. Sounds crazy, but science proves it works! Tapping has been researched in more than 10 countries, by more than 60 investigators, with results being published in more than 100 papers. (https://www.eftuniverse.com/research-studies/eft-research)

In my experience as a Practitioner, I find kids are quite open to EFT and gain results quickly as they don’t have the same amount of emotional baggage we do as adults. They’re not caught up in the “how’s” and “why’s”, they just want to feel better. EFT works even if they don’t believe in it which is especially helpful for older children who might have resistance to working on issues or trying new approaches.

So how can you start tapping with your child today? Below are the basic points we use. You can either tap on yourself and have them mirror you or tap directly on them with their permission.

Step 1: Have your child choose a side that feels comfortable. Get them to rate the intensity of the emotion out of 0 or if they are too young, they can show you how “big” it is with their hands.
Step 2: Create the “Set-up phrase” while tapping on the karate chop point with the opposite hand. The “Set-up” phrase is stating the issue and accepting ourselves anyway – think of it as a “balancing statement”. An example could be “Even though I feel anxious about starting this new school, I love and accept myself (or I’m a great kid/I’m safe)”. We repeat the set-up phrase twice while tapping on the karate chop.
Step 3: Create the “Reminder phrases”. These are statements about the issue. Keep them short and succinct – eg “this anxiety”, “this feeling in my tummy, “I’m scared the other kids won’t like me”, “feeling really nervous”. Start the reminder phrases after the set-up and begin at the top of the head, working down in a logical fashion (eyebrow, side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, on the chin, collarbone and finishing under the arm – this is one “round”). One phrase per point. Don’t worry about getting it “right” – just tap and talk about the issue and it doesn’t matter if you repeat the same phrases. Continue tapping for a minimum of 3 “rounds”.
Step 4: Get them to take a deep breath in and out and re-rate the intensity of the emotion out of 10. Ideally it should be going down (or getting “smaller”) Repeat the steps above until the intensity is down to a 3 or below.

*If the intensity isn’t going down or the feeling isn’t shifting, try being more specific about the problem. Often tapping generally on “this anxiety” takes longer than “this anxiety that the kids won’t like me at my new school” for instance so make sure it is specific to what’s going on for them.

 

If your child is resistant to getting straight into the technique, a great way to introduce it is to ask them to recount their day before bed while you tap on them (or they tap on themselves). Omit the set-up phrase and ask them to tell you everything that happened (good and bad) whilst tapping through the points beginning at the top of the head and working down (around 7-10 taps per point). Continue for as long as they take to finish telling you about their day. This helps your child to process the events at a subconscious level and associated emotions effectively without having to “zero-in” on specific issues.

As parents, we are often so caught up in wanting to seek assistance for our children that we forget we also need help! I always encourage parents of children I work with to work on themselves and their own stresses, fears and anxieties as they are often unwittingly passed on to their kids. Children are great mirrors of what we need to address within ourselves so take some time out to examine your own responses to situations, and what you might be able to let go of that can in turn, provide them with relief also. Energy is transferrable and if we are stressed, chances are so are our kids! I have seen a lot of behavioural issues resolved (mostly in younger kids) purely from the parents working on themselves, so try to incorporate tapping into your own daily routine and see everyone reap the benefits!

Tapping Tips:

Familiarise yourself with the technique so you are confident in applying it to your child. Work on your own issues too – be a role model.
Ensure you introduce tapping in a light-hearted manner, don’t “force” them to work on things unless they are open to it. Encourage introducing it as a “self-help technique” they can use anytime for any issue (mainly older kids). This means they are less likely to feel they need “fixing” and fosters a sense of empowerment.
Make it fun – for younger children try using the words “magic buttons” to describe the tapping points or give them each a name ie: “the monkey spot” for the top of the head or the “gorilla spot” for the collarbone point.
Go slow and steady – one issue at a time so as not to create overwhelm for either of you and allow better cognitive understanding of their improvement.
Encourage children aged 6 and above to tap on themselves (you can always tap along as well) as this creates confidence in their ability to self-regulate. They can then go and teach their friends how to tap too!
Don’t give up – every bit of tapping you do is helping to re-program their subconscious and build resilience. Be persistent and don’t be afraid to ask for help from a practitioner, especially for more complex issues.

It’s important to remember that although we want to protect our kids from experiencing negative emotions and experiences, its their reaction to those feelings and events that count and shape their experience of the world. EFT is the perfect tool you can teach them to foster confidence and resilience both now and for their future. Try it on everything! From anxiety to self-image to sports performance and even physical pain, you can empower your child to take control of their emotional and physical reality – what better gift is there to give them?

For more information on EFT and resources (including a parent’s tapping handbook), please visit www.breakfreewitheft.com

Catharine Ross is a certified EFT Tapping Practitioner & Mum to 3-year-old Lily (with another baby due in October 2018) and has been helping adults and kids overcome various emotional issues using EFT and Matrix Re-Imprinting for the past 7 years. She is a passionate keynote speaker, runs online workshops and courses and has recently authored an e-book on using EFT for kids from babies through to teens, available on her website.