My 11-year-old daughter has suddenly developed a fear of school. She has previously been very, very happy there, and can’t give a reason for feeling like this. She really wants to go but feels she can’t, and doesn’t know why. Any ideas?
photo by Martin LaBar
Obviously, with so little information, there is no real way to answer this question. A whole host of reasons could be contributing to this fear. The reasons might involve the classroom, the play ground, or problems with other students or schoolwork.
What we can do is talk about how we approach any emotional response where the cause is entirely unknown.
There are two basic courses we can take. I would recommend taking both of them at the same time. They are to 1) deal with the emotions in the moment and 2) investigate to find the root of the emotions. This way we cope with the short-term fear and try to find the roots of the fear so there won’t be the same response in the future.
The Emotion Right Now
One of the blessings of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is that we are able to use it right now for the emotions we are feeling in this moment. In this case I recommend two things.
First, I recommend tapping before bedtime on the fear about going to school the next day. If the fear is large enough it will be present the night before. It is good to deal with this at bedtime because this fear is going to affect her sleep.
Second, I recommend spending tapping in the morning before heading out the door to school or even on the ride to school.
In both cases the tapping is very simple. I would have her explain to me how the fear feels, how her body feels, and what she’s worried about. I wouldn’t use any complicated tapping phrases. I would have her tell me what is going on in her body and in her head while she taps.
Investigating the Roots
With the immediate fear under a little more control we can start looking around for the root cause. When working with a client I would use all the information about them and their history as a start. In this case I know nothing more than she is 11 years old. With that in mind I would start by asking questions around the common reasons an 11-year-old wouldn’t want to go to school.
My questions would be something like this.
1) Why does she feel like she can’t go?
It sounds like the questions has been asked, but it’s a good place to start every time. Often people — not just kids — have a hard time admitting why they are afraid. By asking again they might give an answer they didn’t before.
2) What could go wrong if she does go to school?
Fear usually involves not wanting to experience a bad outcome. They might be able to name the outcome they fear and not associate that with the fear itself.
3) This feeling of not wanting to go to school, what does it remind her of?
This is a classic EFT investigation question. When you don’t know the root, see what it reminds you of. Lots of information can be found here.
4) If she could change one thing about school, what would it be?
Sometimes we don’t want to say what we fear, but we are willing to say what we would like to see different. Fear is often associated with weakness. We don’t like to share why we are fearful. This question lets us answer without looking weak.
5) If she could go to a new school, how would the new school be different from her old school?
This is very much like the last question. By giving them a chance to say what they do want, we give them a way of not saying what they don’t want or fear.
6) If she could go to school tomorrow and know one person was not going to be there, who would she want that person to be?
No one likes to be a tattletale. Also for kids there might be fear of retaliation for turning a bully in. This way they don’t have to tell on someone else and yet are free to state their needs.
7) When she is not at school, what does she think the other students say about her?
People, not just kids, can be ruthless. We don’t like to be places where we’re being picked on, but again we don’t like to be tattletales. By asking the question in this fashion we are not asking her to tell on anyone. Instead, she is pretending what they might say. This is a safe way to share what she fears.
Obviously this is just a start, but I think it’s a good start. We can’t help but get closer to the roots.
It is important to remember that with EFT we always have two plans of attack. We can always deal with what we feel right now. Then we can deal with the roots of the emotions. If we can find our way in with both courses, then we should use them. We’re not helpless just because we don’t know the root. We can always reduce or resolve the immediate problem until we get to the root of the issue.