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Separation Anxiety In 8 Year Old With Going To School

by Donna

Hi Annie,

I have an eight year year old client with his Mom who essentially is glued to her side.

He has a fear of separation from his mother and being safe while in school. Unfortunately he is all too well aware of the Sandy Hook tragedy. He is going to a new school in the fall and worries constantly about the safety measures at the new school.

He also told me he does not think his mom can take care of herself and he worries about her personal safety, as something tragic could happen in the grocery store. (The mom is wonderful and takes very good care of herself and her family. However she too is a big worrier.) (The mom has a personal seven year old body guard.) He said and I quote “I worry about my mom every 5 minutes.”

Getting on the school bus in the morning is sometimes a challenge.

After purchasing your EFT for Kids Manual, I did some EFT with both the mom and the child yesterday and both felt relief!!

Personally, I know the mom must address her worries so she can set a healthy example for the children.

I would greatly appreciate some addional help with a script, as the book did not have exactly what I was looking for.

Comments for Separation Anxiety In 8 Year Old With Going To School

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Separation Anxiety
Annie's Reply Part One

by: Annie

Thanks for your question Donna, we are seeing more and more children with fairly extreme anxiety, and EFT is a fantastic tool to help get it under control.

I'll give a bit more of an overview for other parents to help them understand separation anxiety in an older child - as a therapist you will likely be aware of some of this. Then I will give you some ideas about how to use EFT to help the child and his Mom live a more manageable life.

Separation anxiety in an older child is more complicated than in a baby, where you tend to expect a period of panic when Mum disappears. Mild anxiety can be useful - helps to keep us safe, make careful decisions rather than impulsive risky ones. However when anxiety spirals out of control it impairs our ability to live a happy life.

I can't really give you an exact script, as with all the scripts they are just guidelines to give you ideas. Each child is different, their issues, their language, how they respond to tapping etc.

Get child's input all along the way - I can't stress that enough - you will find I keep coming back to that. I'll give you loads of ideas for how you can modify and use EFT with this child, and you can work out what you think will work best. You can't get it wrong really - go with how he responds and tap on whatever he is presenting - that is the magic of tapping, it does not have to be perfect to work.

I don't often use the 1 - 10 scale with kids, but in this case it would be a good idea so he can recognize the level of distress changing: So on a scale of 1 - 10 - with 10 being the most horrible fear and anxiety (use his words) how do you feel?

Then do a couple of rounds to tap out his fears and check again to see if it has lowered. Initially you will need to concentrate on how he feels as that is what is running the show. So until he can learn to calm himself he is not likely to be able to think more rationally.

Overall you are aiming to strengthen the child's ability to think rationally - anxiety are irrational thoughts that get out of control - and when a child is severely affected, they may make themselves physically sick with worry, and of course the family cannot function normally with a child that is so distressed.

Fear of school or worry about a parent dying are quite common ways an anxiety disorder can manifest in an older child. And sadly when children hear about extreme incidents such as the Sandy Hook tragedy their appears to be some reality.

Your challenge - and his Mom's, is to help him see a bigger picture as to how likely it is something like that will happen again. Of course we hope never.

Part Two Follows . . .

Separation Anxiety
Annie's Reply Part Two

by: Annie Desantis

Helping children to overcome separation anxiety we have to work in several ways.

Firstly Tapping is brilliant to reduce the anxiety levels and deal with the panic and fear. Teaching the child the tapping process puts him in control - and that is the first important step. Anxiety is when we feel out of control, helpless to fix something or something seems bigger than we can deal with. So giving him some tools to get his anxiety under control - or start to diminish it will really help.

He may always be a highly anxious person - and Mum also sounds like a worrier. That is the other key factor. Mom also needs to learn how she is contributing to his panic. More than likely she is reinforcing his distress. Parents do this in several ways - and actually from both extremes!

Some parents don't deal with their child's anxiety and bully or push them into situations they are not emotional equipped to deal with. Some parents over-react to their child's distress and reinforce the behaviour by being over solicitous, over anxious about their well-being, and conveying that the world is not a safe place.

Sadly the media bombards us with horrific news that reinforces a sensitive child's fears that it is a pretty unsafe world out there.

So your job as a therapist is to try to work with Mom too!
Note To Parents!Don't underestimate your contribution to your child's issue, or what a difference it makes when you tap out your worries and concerns for your child!

You can get him tapping along as you talk to him - as you ask him questions about what kind of situations stress him out, just keep him tapping as he talks. You can tap on yourself at the same time to help him see where to tap:

You "So when you wake up in the morning you feel a sinking feeling in your tummy? - Tap on your inside eyebrow"
"What are the kinds of things you start thinking? - Tap on your outer eyebrow"

You can't get this wrong - it is not a matter of having the perfect sequence, words or statements. You really just be guided by the child. Watch how he reacts, where the energy or charge is and do more tapping when you see him starting to get distressed, or he talks about what stresses him.

When you notice some behavior, bring it to his awareness and put it into the tapping mix.You can speak in the first person as if it is you - you are modelling to him how to use this tool.

Part Three Follows . . .

Separation Anxiety
Annie's Reply Part Three

by: Annie Desantis

Continue to say aloud to him as you tap along with him:
"Tap under your nose - I hunch my shoulders and start rocking a little when I start to get stressful thoughts about Mom being away from me"

Tap your chin "I'm worried she will get hurt"

You can basically spend the whole session tapping away on everything he talks about or any behaviour you notice.

Initially you will be teaching him the sequence and helping him to lower his distress. This will be a really powerful tool he can use all the time whenever he becomes aware the anxiety is starting to build. At first it probably spirals out of control before takes action. But as he practices more he will pick it up earlier and earlier and gain more and more control.

Early Recognition Of Feelings

One of the key things for us all to get control of behavior we want to change - is recognizing as early as possible when we are going down a black hole.

Learning to notice any physical sensations - tensing up of the body, feeling sick, rapid heart rate, sweating. Becoming aware of feelings - dread, fear, anxious. The more you can help this boy to notice what the key changes are in his well-being, the more he can begin to switch them around.

As a hypnotist you will have lots of techniques to help him unpack an episode - but I would not go over very many past incidences - you just want enough to help him come to awareness of when he starts to get out of control. You don't want to anchor those experiences any more than they already are.

He can tap along as the fears come up - he can tap on feelings in his body, he can tap on any thoughts that come up, no matter how random. If you are doing a session with him, initially you can tap on him - but I would really recommend he does the tapping - the more he is in control the better he builds experiences of being able to cope. You can direct him where to tap as you repeat any of his words - you can be tapping on yourself to show him.

As much as possible use his language. If a child says he is scared - don't say frightened - use his words as much as possible, it will have more impact.

Mom can tap alongside her son to help him build trust and reality. She obviously is very caring and concerned and wants to help him. She can reinforce all the work you do with him, repeating scripts, running practice sessions, helping him to recognize when he is starting to escalate.

She can also tap out her own stress about it all - some of this might be better done privately away from him, he does not need to see all her fears about him! What would be good is if she taps in good stuff about him in front of him:

"I know John is getting control of his fears" "He's a great kid and is getting better at enjoying school and he is starting to trust I am safe" "It's great that he handled the situation well yesterday when I left the house" etc.

Part Four Follows . . .

Separation Anxiety
Annie's Reply Part Four

by: Annie Desantis

Practice Sessions

Set up some situations with him and Mom to practice. Every step along the way as much as you can get him to make suggestions of what he would see as something he could practice. You are reinforcing cogitative thinking all the time, plus you are using scenarios he will be more likely to be motivated to achieve.

Get the child to list things to achieve - feeling OK while Mum is outside hanging washing - catching the school bus etc. The more the child chooses the achievements, the more drive there is to work towards it. Break into smaller steps monitoring the anxiety as it escalates. Taps for each stage - heart racing, sweating, feeling sick, thoughts that are untrue or highly unlikely etc.

Start small - you are aiming to reinforce Mom's safety and that she will return - so building reality - as he taps on both his fears, any feelings or thoughts that are coming up and also tapping in his success. That final step is really important - he needs to anchor in his feelings of success that he managed to keep - or get back - control when Mom was out of his safe radar zone.

Is Dad around? Or a grandparent? He can have practice sessions where Mom leaves the house for an agreed period of time, and the child taps on his anxiety. Or your can do it in your sessions - Mom can leave for short periods - and build up to longer times while you monitor his distress and help him to tap it out.

Part Five Follows . . .

Separation Anxiety
Annie's Reply Part Five

by: Annie Desantis

Possible Vs Probable

He needs to think through and understand the difference between possibility and probability - and how likely it really is for something to occur? Very hard when there is some evidence of reality in his situation.

But he can think through how many schools there are in his state - thousands? And one tragedy. How many schools in the whole of America? He can do some sort of visual image to represent reality vs his fear. So a minuscule red dot among thousands of black dots - or something that helps him to realize the likelihood of something happening at his school is actually VERY small.

Help him to work out how many times Mom has gone to the grocery store in her life time - a grain of rice or a piece of lego for each time - multiplied by years etc. (Good maths practice too!) So he gets some visual images of the reality - Mom can go shopping and be perfectly safe. She has been shopping 3,600 times and been perfectly safe each time.

Reminder Cards

The next thing we want to do to help kids like this is help him to develop some questions to ask himself. This helps to get him out of feeling mode - into rational thinking. If he has some questions or a framework to help him build some steps to getting to a more balanced reality, then again, down the track he can start learning how to manage his anxiety himself.

Again - get him to come up with questions to ask himself - he can write them on cards and carry them for a while or draw little reminder images such as a question mark.

Things like:
Stop! Let's think this through.
Is this really true?
Has this ever happened?
Is this just my anxiety talking?
Do I want my fears to run my life?
What can I do right now that will help me to feel better?

Some of the cards could be helpful reminders:

Take three deep slow breaths
(we tend to shallow breathe faster when scared.)
Tap Tap Tap Mom is safe
Tap in good stuff - Mom is buying my favorite snack right now

At any point along the way he can tap - the more he taps out the feelings and responses and anchors in better choices the more he builds success.

Part Six Follows . . .

Separation Anxiety
Annie's Reply Part Six

by: Annie Desantis

I would do a lot of back and forth tapping - the fear - the reality -

Tap on things like:
"I scared something bad will happen to Mom if she goes shopping without me"

You can tap the whole way through all the points just on that statement - or similar if he is really anxious - or switch back and forth between a fear and a question:

"Is this really true?"
"Well not so far, but something bad could happen"
"Has Mom ever been hurt when she does the shopping?"
"No, I don't think so" "Or yes one time someone hit her car in the parking lot"
"How many times has Mom been shopping and been perfectly fine?"
"She goes shopping sometimes without me and has been fine"

If the level of the anxiety start to drop, then you can start building in other possibilities:
"Maybe she can start to go shopping more often on her own?"
That will probably trigger off a fear - so keep tapping on all his responses:
"I'd be worried if she went more often without me"
"What if every other time she did the shopping on her own"
"mmm I don't know if I like that idea"
"So she has been shopping 300 times this year and been perfectly fine - perhaps she will be safe to go shopping this week on her own?

Possibility Phrases

Phrases like maybe - perhaps - what if - all start to bring in other options.

When people have extreme anxiety they cannot see any other choices, their fears are running the show. But if we just discount it - your wrong, silly, stupid to be worrying over nothing - then they just get backed more into a corner to have to be the one to take care of everything because no-one else understands.

By introducing other possibilities, other ways of thinking or that their thoughts might not be the only possibility, then you are not negating his experience, but you are opening up his mind to other possible realities.

Part Seven Follows . . .

Separation Anxiety
Annie's Reply Part Seven

by: Annie Desantis

Create Positive Anchors

You may have used some NLP in your hypnotherapy practice? Helping him to have a physical anchor of safety would be a great thing you can do with hypnotherapy. Something that he can do at school, on the bus, anywhere when he is starting to get fearful.

He can report back to you or Mom all the successes he has - no matter how small - and you can help him to anchor it by either tapping those feelings in - or a more discrete one is to squeeze the thumb and middle finger together, or squeeze one knee. Some kids squeeze the other wrist.

An anchor works to fire off GOOD feelings when we start to feel scared. The tapping also works as an anchor to tap in good feelings - but having an extra one he can use any time any where all helps to build his belief in himself and his ability to cope and be rational and functional.

So as well as tapping out his fears - he can set himself up in advance for situations that he might normally escalate - before he leaves to catch the bus for school - squeeze those anchors or tap a round of affirmations to set the scene.

Part Eight Follows . . .

Separation Anxiety
Annie's Reply Part Eight

by: Annie Desantis

It will take time for him to gain control, and there will be times when he seems to regress - particularly if the family is under stress, there are changes to his routine etc. But the more the family encourage him to practice his tapping, and clear thinking - rather than any put downs or irritations with his fears - then the more he can build on successes.

If the school will also co-operate to help him to build rational thinking about being away from Mom would be good too. So he could develop a program of checking in with Mom at certain times - not every five minutes!

The school can support him tapping out his anxiety and rational thinking until the check in time approaches - maybe he can call Mom at recess and lunch. Initially it might need to be more often but as he celebrates his success at overcoming his fears he can stretch it out. Reporting to her how he is coping is also good reinforcement.

He might have to work in very small stages in the beginning until he can work up to a whole day where he has got himself back under control. It is not so much getting rid of the anxiety - but it is helping him to learn to control his escalating thoughts. That is the most important factor. He might have had ten panic attacks throughout the day - but if he managed to get them all back under his control without a melt down - that is a HUGE achievement.

Celebrating the successes, tapping in his ability to cope better will all help him to gain confidence in the world and Mom's safety.

Hope this gives you some ideas - Tapping is brilliant for this kind of issue - you really can't do it wrong - just keep tapping on anything that comes up - feelings, thoughts, fears - then tap in new possibilities, successes and affirmations.

Good luck Donna,

Annie D :)

Thank You
by: Donna

Hi Annie – thank you so much for your thoughtful response. I can see how much time you put into this. I do hope it will be useful to another parent or practitioner.

Our children are our prize possessions and the future of the world. It’s important they grow up feeling happy, loved and safe.

Much gratitude and appreciation.

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