Five Tips for Tapping with Children
I love to "tap" with children because they are always so open and respond so quickly! Big Feelings that may take a grown up to 30 minutes or more to release can often be released in just seconds when tapping with children. The best part is, they love it too!
I have tapped successfully with children who are both very open to it, as well as some grumblers and complainers. It takes a bit of finesse to over-ride the grumblers but it can be done, and they may even thank you for it once they feel better!
If you're wondering when to tap with your children, that's simple too! Some times when tapping may be effective might be...
fear of getting in a swimming pool
distress when losing at a board game
feelings of embarrassment when talking with grown-ups
disappointment when you won't buy her that toy in the store
nervousness going into his first gymnastics class
sadness over a mean comment from a friend
disappointment over a rained-out playdate
Pretty much whenever those Big Feelings show up, it's time to tap!
(Hint: This might be true for grown ups too!!)
So now you know when to tap, here's my Top Five Pointers for How to Tap With Children:
1. Make it Fun
Tapping looks silly. Admitting that right up front and presenting it to children as a game, may get their cooperation more quickly.
Finding ways to make tapping fun can be fun for you too! Some fun ways to mix it up:
Pound on your collarbone points like a gorilla.
Scratch the top of head and under arm points like a screeching monkey.
Play Simon Says so the child is challenged to do what you do.
Let a child who already knows the tapping points "teach" you or other children.
Have the child come up with silly code names for each of the points that only you two know.
Pretend you're secret agents and can only use hand signals and eye contact to communicate.
Get creative and give the child lots of chances to make imaginative decisions!
The first rule of tapping with children - in fact, doing just about anything with children - is simplify, simplify, simplify!
If a child is feeling these Big Feelings, she probably doesn't need the "set-up" - just go straight to tapping on the points. And don't worry about hitting all the points perfectly. If you miss some on one round, try to get them on the next round.
If your child has never tapped before or can't remember the points, go ahead and tap for him right on his body. It's much easier and faster to just do the tapping for him than trying to teach him the points while he's in full-on melt-down mode. Make this as simple for both of you as you possibly can. (please only do this if you have a relationship with the child that gives you permission to touch)
My 7 year old is now in the habit of sitting on my lap, leaning his back against me, and letting me tap on his face and torso whenever he's upset. My 9 year old prefers to tap for herself. Do whatever is easiest for your child at the time!
3. Name the Feelings
For children, the most important thing to remember when "scripting" is to simply name their feelings for them. This is a skill that takes lots of practice for children which adults generally take for granted. Naming the feelings will help them, not just while tapping, but for the rest of the child's life!
Help them explore the feeling by naming a few feelings and checking in to see if you got the right one. Questions like "Maybe you're feeling mad right now?" "Do you think you might be sad about this?" "Do you think this might feel scary for you?" "You wanted to win that game, and it's hard to lose, isn't it?" can help you both zero in on the problem quickly and require only a concrete yes or no answer from the child.
It's very important to check that you've properly identified the feeling and aren't projecting your own ideas of how the child is feeling.
Also, be sure to add in statements while tapping that help the child feel ok with having these emotions.
The most simple way to tap with a child is for you to do the tapping on the child while naming the Big Feeling for her.
I once tapped with a 6 year old who had tripped over a table leg and had a minor injury. We identified the Big Feeling as Anger at the Table and the script I gave her went something like this:
Me tapping on top of her head: I'm so Angry and that's ok Me tapping on her eyebrow point: I feel Angry Me tapping on her side of eye point: That stupid table. It's ok to be mad at it. Me tapping her under eye point: I'm mad at that table and I'm ok. Me tapping her under nose point: That mean ol' table tripped me and it hurt! Me tapping on her chin point: I don't like that table! It's not nice! I'm nice though!
This was literally all it took. After tapping on these first six points and naming the feelings for her as I tapped, she ran off happy to play again. She didn't say or do a thing - I did all the work for her!
4. Use Those Mirror Neurons
Sometimes children are so upset they don't want to tap and they don't want you to touch them either. This is a great time to put to use the mirror neurons in their brains. This is the part of the brain that sees something others are doing and is tricked into thinking it's doing that thing too.
For example, this is the part of the brain that is activated when someone else yawns and you feel a sudden need to yawn as well. Or when you see a child kicked hard in the shin on the soccer field and now you wince as if you can imagine having that injury yourself. It's fairly easy to trick our brains into thinking they are doing what others around us are doing.
I have several older children with special needs who can become inconsolable and incapable of acting on their own. When their levels of emotional dysregulation get too high, I quietly and calmly position myself where they can see me and begin to tap on the points. I don't use a script, I just tap on my own body where they can see me. Often a minute or so of them watching me tap is enough to help them feel soothed and ready to talk about their Big Feelings. It's not unusual for them to be so upset they don't even know they've been watching me tap.
5. Try It On Everything
In our family we've used tapping for everything from test anxiety, to bee stings, to pool water that's too cold, to sibling spats. Anything that produces emotions is fair game for tapping. Our rallying cry when emotions run high is "Tap it out!"
Sometimes tapping doesn't work and that's ok. But if there's a good chance it will work and help a child feel safe and regulated quickly then why not give it a try? It's not going to hurt, and most likely it will help - a lot.
I hope this post encourages you to go ahead and try tapping with your children. Leave a comment below to let me know how you use tapping with children and what works for you! I love to hear great tapping stories!