Processing emotions is like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube or playing a game of Twister – it takes time, patience, focus, practice and follow through, but is NOT impossible to do! For adults the processing is more easily understood. Kids? They need our help to get there!
What if your child is a particularly anxious one, and not yet equipped with the tools to sort their emotions? What if their feelings are so big that you’re convinced you (or they!) might explode?
I have a son, 9, who is a Highly Sensitive Child (also known as an HSP). He has very big feelings. Among the many loving and joyous parts of him, he is also gentle, compassionate, concerned, cautious, hesitant to try new things and worries a lot about others’ feelings and his own (he still apologizes to me for not liking the birthday cake I made for his 6th birthday party!). He is the boy who, although feeling awful inside sometimes, will do his best to exude a positive, unbothered demeanor only to come home and melt down about the thing that got him so upset – as an adult we all know how taxing it can be to hold it together in certain settings! This is not unusual and quite common for kiddos to do, especially with school. For a child who is already anxious, this can be quite intense. I really wanted to try and find a way to help him manage.
And I thought Hey, what about the Tapping thing I’ve done in my life to help ME?
So what is Tapping? “Tapping, also known as EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), is a powerful holistic healing technique that has been proven to effectively resolve a range of issues, including stress, anxiety, phobias, emotional disorders, chronic pain, weight control, and limiting beliefs – just to name a few.” In other words, Tapping helps send signals to the part of the brain that controls stress. It’s like deep breathing, taking a yoga class or trying meditation – all bring you to a place that is more still.
As an adult, I have been introduced several times to the practice of Tapping to help sort, calm, and manage my own emotions. It’s certainly an alternative approach. But I’ve had a good experience with it and so I introduced it to my son through a children’s book my mom sent us (she’s a big time Tapper). I’ve been encouraged to use this technique for a number of different reasons whether it’s heartbreak, general anxiety, depression and even trauma from childhood cancer. So clearly this is a practice that intends to reach any part of us, emotionally. In my opinion, speaking from an adult perspective, when our emotions are in control or even alleviated (yes please!), that tightness in the chest or throat, that urge to scream, roll your eyes incessantly, or crush a whole box of cookies, will dissipate. Sounds good, right?
I don’t do it all the time, but I do find myself going back to it enough to find it helps, and to think that maybe this could be something to help my son…and yes, maybe you ought to give it a go, too – COVID fatigue, anyone?
How does Tapping work?
Tapping is a form of meditation where a person (in this instance, a child) “taps”, using their fingers, on the face, hands, and other parts of their upper body while saying positive phrases such as “I am lovable”, “I am smart”, “I am joyful”, “I am free”, “People like to be around me”, “I know I can do this”, etc. Saying things like this to yourself will help to program the language in your head (that’s often on repeat) to shift to positive and not get stuck in the negative. The simplicity, availability, and the fact that there is no need to be or consult with a professional are huge selling points for us (entry-level anything, please!)
This practice helps you to stop, think, and bring awareness to your mind and body and ultimately pivot your internal dialogue towards a more centered, happy, and calm place. Yippeeee!
But real talk, what did my son think?
I read the book with my son at bedtime. I chose that time because it was the most likely time to read it AND the end of the day tends to be a time to share feelings collected throughout the day and anxieties about the next! What better time to experiment, I thought? He started to try the movements described in the book as we went through them – I find kids like to try new physical movements when given the chance so getting him to try wasn’t hard! When we were done, I decided to ask him a few questions about the book and Tapping.
Did you find the book and Tapping helpful?
“Yeah I did – It made me feel calm for bedtime and my body felt tired”
What was something specific you liked about it?
“That it makes you feel calmer and if someone teases you, you could feel better if you did those moves and you get all your feelings out.”
What is something you didn’t like?
“Nothing.” (WOW! Or, that is the generally lazy answer to get this over with faster – HA!)
After Tapping, did you feel different?
“I felt different because I got really tired after and calmness feels nice.”
Do you think this would be helpful in your school?
“Sure, yeah. If someone wasn’t being nice you could do it and feel better after.”
Is Tapping easy to do?
“Yes. Also, it is good to embrace (did he just use the word embrace – proud mama moment) your feelings and you just feel better about yourself.”
I can’t speak to the effectiveness of it for him long term, but he, at the very least, feels the same way as I do after he did it just that one time. I think we will try it for a couple weeks and see how it goes. I have to remember that it will be most effective when he wants to do it…so stay casual, I remind myself (Me: wanna do it now?…how about now? I really think it will hel —….).
Give it whirl – try it every now and then! It’s worth it. At the very least your child has (hopefully) gone to a quiet place for a minute and you have added a pro-tip to their expanding toolbox for life. It is always good to have a chance to slow down and bring some awareness to yourself in a given moment (I can hear my mom saying “Be Here Now” as I type that). Like my son said, “Calmness feels nice.” To me, that’s enough if it helps him feel that – even just a little.