Parenting. It’s harder than you thought it would be. And if you’re the parent of a challenging child, your struggles are magnified beyond belief, and your stress levels seem to get higher every day.
Your stress may range from persistent concern about what your child has gotten into lately to ongoing fear that you will be physically harmed by your child when she is raging. Or perhaps you are constantly on high alert and you’ve developed a well-developed startle response where you jump at every sound or sudden movement because your child throws things at you or tries to hit or kick you frequently. Or you may just be overwhelmed with worry about how to help your child, how to pay for the therapy she needs, and how to handle the expectations and criticisms of family, neighbors, and school staff. You may be having trouble sleeping, or you may barely be able to drag yourself out of bed in the morning.
Regardless of the reasons for your stress, you know it’s not doing you any favors. It affects your sleep, your patience, and your ability to respond appropriately to your child and others in your life. It also affects your health–stress has been linked to virtually every major chronic disease.
Yet while your child’s behaviors may be exacerbating your stress, you may be surprised to learn that those behaviors are probably not really the cause of your stress. Instead, the seeds for your current stress (your reaction to your current life circumstances) were probably sowed years ago when you were 4 or 6 or 10, in the “Big T” Traumas or “little t” traumas you experienced and in the beliefs you acquired from your parents, your siblings, your teachers, and others about yourself. Indeed, as unlikely as it sounds, your child’s behaviors may turn out to be a gift to you –giving you the push to finally address your long-held, deep-seated, and damaging fears and beliefs.
Some examples of these fears and beliefs are that we’re not loveable, we’re not good enough, we’re only worthwhile if others approve of or validate us, we don’t deserve love unless we’re “good”, and the spiral of negative thinking goes on and on.
It’s no wonder, then, that when your child defies you, swears at you, lashes out at you, etc., you react badly, because your subconscious fears and beliefs get triggered, despite your best intentions. That’s not to say that your child’s behaviors or language are acceptable, but when your child is overwhelmed, and her body is in survival mode (as most of our challenging children experience frequently, if not constantly), what she needs is for you to be present with her, allow her to express and process her emotions, and reassure her that she is loved and safe. What he needs is for you to do more responding and less reacting, more listening and less talking, more accepting and less judging, more being present and less wishing for him to just get over it.
But the therapeutic parenting that our children so desperately need from us is virtually impossible to do if we are still struggling with our own unresolved emotional baggage from our own pasts.
EFT can Help
Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT or tapping) offers a way to break the stressful reactive cycle that we all fall into. EFT combines the wisdom of ancient Chinese meridian therapy (the basis for accupuncture and accupressure) with more modern understandings of how the brain works and how we process and store memories and emotions. The result is an amazingly easy technique that can decouple or unlink troublesome and traumatic events, memories, beliefs, and emotions from where they have been stored in our bodies. This “stuck” energy leads to stress, reactive emotions, physical pain, and more.
Trauma researchers understand that when stressful events occur, our bodies naturally rev up to try to keep us safe, sending blood to our extremities and away from our brain, and increasing the production of adrenaline and cortisol. Yet while animals literally shake off excess or undischarged energy once danger has passed, we humans often don’t or are trained from an early age not to release the energetic tension that has built up in our bodies. (How many times have you been told to stop crying, get over it, or to just calm down?) So the energy gets stuck, building up over the years, causing all sort of problems.
In the case of limiting beliefs, the messages we receive and the lessons we learn about ourselves and the world we live in when we are young are absorbed into our subconscious like a sponge, where they are called up and replayed over and over again (usually without our knowledge) through the rest of our lives. Talking alone usually isn’t enough to reach these subconscious programs, which is one reason why talk therapy and even affirmations, by themselves, often don’t bring relief or results.
Fully 95 percent of what we think and do is based on programming being replayed by our subconscious. That’s why, despite our best efforts to stay calm, to not engage, and to be present, we still end up getting swept up into emotional reactions and end up saying and doing things we regret later. When an external event triggers one of our subconscious programs, there’s little we can do to prevent that program from playing to the end, unless we can re-write the program. That’s exactly what EFT can do.
By focusing in on a specific memory, belief, or fear while tapping with your fingers on accupressure points on your face and body, EFT can literally reprogram the subconscious thoughts and patterns that prevent you from learning new ways of interacting with your child (and everyone else in your life) that talking alone doesn’t seem to address.
How does it work? EFT helps your body return to a state of healing and balance. EFT has been shown to reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol, increase the production of serotonin, and bring the mind to brainwave frequencies associated with light meditation. It is also believed to disrupt stress signals being sent from the amygdala – the part of your brain responsible for sending you into a fight/flight/freeze mode in cases of real or perceived danger. But you don’t need to understand how or why it works for it to work for you.
The potential of EFT to help parents struggling to deal with the stress that goes along with parenting challenging children is unlimited. EFT can help you release emotions, fears, and beliefs that keep you stuck in a cycle of reactivity, feeling victimized and lacking control, and leaving you in a state of perpetual overwhelm and stress.
EFT is simple to learn, although it takes a bit of getting used to — there’s no question that tapping can look and feel somewhat strange at first. To learn more, simply sign up for the Full Potential Parenting EFT mailing list (if you’re already a subscriber to the Full Potential Parenting show email list, please sign up for this separate list to get periodic updates about upcoming EFT classes and tips about tapping). If you’re interested in learning about individual or group sessions to help you resolve longstanding issues that are holding you back from being the parent you want and need to be for your child, please visit the Classes and Sessions page. You can also learn more about Tapping with Alison.
It’s time to take the first steps to healing yourself so you can help heal your child.