A month back, I started working with an 11-year-old boy on fear of going to school. While speaking to his parents, I gathered that he was very scared to go to school and would complain of physical symptoms and make excuses about going to school.
In the first session with him, he said he was scared of going to school but he didn’t know why that happened. It was obvious that he couldn’t understand what was happening and couldn’t explain it.
Kids have difficulty in expressing what they feel sometimes, hence I asked him about his favorite cartoon and with the help of that explored some of his feelings.
Over the next two sessions, I came to know that he was scared of new subjects like chemistry and physics.
Gradually, with closed-ended questions, we narrowed it down to his fear of going to school on days when there was a chemistry or physics class. I asked him to imagine his school and describe how he felt about it.
He said that he felt something unpleasant.
I asked him, “When did you feel this way for the first time?” He narrated his first school interview and we tapped on that incident using simple phrases, in his native language combined with English.
Then we narrowed his “fear” further to his teacher asking him to answer questions and his fear that he might give wrong answers. We worked on this as well. We also worked on two specific incidents concerning his teacher scolding him for giving a wrong answer.
However, throughout this time, he kept having anxiety every Monday and every time he had to go to school after a holiday.
In the fourth session, during tapping he had a severe headache. I asked him, “Did you have this headache when we started tapping?” He said no. I wanted to find out what was causing his headache in the session and also help him understand that he didn’t have a headache prior to the session, which could only mean that it came on because of something that we had talked about in the session.
Then I asked him, “Did you get this headache when I asked you about the school?”
He said, “Yes.”
In the previous sessions, I had probed about the physical sensations he felt when he was afraid and he wasn’t able to pinpoint them, but in this session he realized that whenever he thought of any school-related stuff, he had a headache.
In fact, he had intermittent headaches at a mild level that increased at the mere thought of going to school. He revealed that he was thinking about his homework, as it was a Saturday and he had school on Monday. The major contributor to his anxiety seemed to be a niggling worry whether he had completed his homework properly and whether he had put all the books in his bag–all related to school.
So we tapped on this, but his headache didn’t go down.
I asked him to tell me how much homework was left. He said 25% in one subject and 10% in another. Because kids are generally positive by nature, I asked him to take a piece of paper and make a checklist of each subject, the homework that was given, and how much was completed.
He wrote down that 75% in one subject and 90% homework in another was done. So I said, “That doesn’t look bad at all, does it? You have another day to complete the full homework,” and he agreed.
Initially, his focus was on how much homework was left and I shifted his attention to how much of it was completed. This simple cognitive exercise decreased his anxiety instantly.
The intensity of his headache went down.
I asked him to tap on each point saying that he had completed a big chunk of his homework and that his books would be all set by tomorrow night for Monday. This brought his headache down further. Then I told him to make a checklist of how much homework he had completed (on a new piece of paper every time) every day for a week and especially on weekends, as his anxiety would be highest on Mondays and on days just after a school holiday.
I told him to take a look at the checklist every night and also when he got up from bed in the morning on school days. I e-mailed a list of simple phrases to his mom and asked her to help him with the tapping.
Three days after this session, his mom called to say that he didn’t have headaches anymore at the thought of going to school and his anxiety had decreased considerably.
After 10 days, I checked on him again, and the positive results had stayed. His anxiety was still negligible and his headaches had vanished. He had exams coming up, so I advised him to tap on that. He was no longer making excuses about school. If any worry came up, he would immediately tap and let it go.
Kids can benefit a lot from EFT, especially when we incorporate positive words in the tapping rounds.
I feel that because kids have a happier disposition than adults, they catch on very fast to any words with a positive intention. Hence, after tapping on the negative feelings, it’s imperative that we use a lot of positive words in the tapping rounds with children. I’ve seen that this works really well.