Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): Teaching tapping to kids 

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Emotional freedom technique is a simple but effective tool we use for emotional wellness at Toucan. Also known as Tapping, it is a safe and gentle way to help reduce stress in children (and adults) and get to the root cause of issues like anxiety, self-doubt, poor sleep, behavioural challenges and the regulation of difficult emotions. It helps build confidence, self-esteem and resilience, improve academic performance and clear negative and limiting beliefs. It is great for working through deeper issues and can help to process traumatic events.

How does it work?

It works via the ‘tap and talk technique,’ gently tapping on 14 key acupressure points on the face and upper body while talking through negative emotions. This blend of traditional Chinese medicine and modern psychology reduces adrenaline and cortisol in the blood and sends a message to the amygdala in the brain to reduce the fight or flight response, rewiring the brain to think differently and helping to release subconsciously held beliefs. 

The process is easy for children to learn and often works faster than in adults because they don’t have the same emotional baggage or resistance to trying a new approach. It also helps increase emotional vocabulary, teaching children how to identify and label their feelings, the first step in processing and moving through difficult emotions. 

There is a large body of clinical research demonstrating the effectiveness of EFT. A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that symptoms of anxiety and depression in children under 12 were greatly reduced. Another study in the Journal of Traumatic Stress found that EFT reduced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in children and teens. 

How to teach tapping to kids: 

  1. Introduce EFT

Start by explaining what tapping is, and how it can help manage and process emotions. Make it fun, engaging and use age-appropriate language. You can compare it to giving a gentle massage to specific points on the body to help release emotions.

  • Identify the emotion

Ask the child the name the emotion they are currently feeling or a situation that is upsetting them. Be encouraging, expressing the emotion they are feeling is an important step to becoming aware of their feelings and giving a starting point to work with. Visual cues are helpful, feelings and emotions charts for children can be found on the internet and downloaded free of charge. 

  • Teaching the tapping points 

Explain the various tapping points using easy-to-understand terms. The main tapping points are: – Top of the head (crown) – Eyebrow – Side of the eye – Under the eye – Under the nose – Chin – Collarbone – Under the arm – Karate chop point (side of the hand). Show them how to tap gently on these points using two or three fingers while repeating a simple statement related to the identified emotion. For example, “Even though I feel scared, I deeply and completely love and accept myself.” Tapping can also be replaced by gentle massage of the points. You can demonstrate on yourself first or use a teddy bear or soft toy. 

4: Start tapping

Guide the child through each tapping point while repeating the chosen affirmation or statement. You can customise these affirmations based on your child’s emotions and specific situations they are dealing with. Encourage them to tap with moderate pressure for about five to seven seconds on each point. 

5: Repeat and Reinforce 

Repeat the tapping routine for a few rounds, focusing on the challenging emotion or situation. Let them know that it’s normal if they don’t feel an immediate shift, and that it may take time and practice for the technique to be fully effective. 

6: Introduce the positive 

After a few rounds of acknowledging how the child is feeling begin to add a positive affirmation e.g. “Even though I’m feeling scared, I know that I am safe.” Continue tapping until the child begins to feel calm or you notice signs of relaxation or yawning, a sign they are releasing the emotion. Eventually finishing with only the positive affirmation e.g. “I am safe”.

7: Reflect and Discuss 

Once the routine is complete, ask your child how they feel compared to before they started. Any shift downwards is good. Encourage them to reflect on any changes in their emotions. Use the opportunity to discuss the importance of acknowledging and expressing emotions, and how EFT can be a helpful tool to manage them. 

8: Practice regularly

Help the child to make it a regular part of their routine, at bedtime for example, as well as in challenging situations or when they’re feeling strong emotions. Encourage them to tap on their own whenever they need to release a negative emotion or regain emotional balance. 

Find out more

Tapping is a brilliant way to help kids find balance and a sense of peace, while equipping them with a tool they can use to manage their emotions for life. 

Sarah Tobin runs Tapping with Sarah Tobin and is one of the UKs most well-known EFT facilitators, she will be speaking at Toucan’s conference A holistic Approach to SEN on 7th December in Newcastle upon Tyne. Sarah will discuss the science of tapping, the latest research into EFT and demonstrate how to work with children and how to bring EFT into the classroom.

Book your tickets to find out about EFT / Tapping and hear from other great speakers here

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