If we could, we’d make life Disney-perfect and feed our children only the sweetest parts of life to keep them happy and strong.
Yet, we adults know that it’s not possible to anticipate or control every life circumstance or consequence. Living can get hard and, often, strength and resilience are built in response to difficult times.
Still, when our kids are grappling with disturbing events and thoughts, it can be confusing and upsetting as we try to find solutions. Fortunately, what we can do is give our children the tools they need to face upset or trauma… and the scary, mixed-up feelings that come with them. EMDR helps your child cope with emotions and events that can be hard to manage.
EMDR & the Thoughts, Worries, and Fears that Get in Your Child’s Way
First, if your child is struggling emotionally, don’t beat yourself up. The mere fact that you are seeking out answers and advice is a sign that they will receive the care and support they need. There is no shame or guilt tied to parsing out which modes of therapy might help your child and your family as a whole.
Second, one proven therapy you might consider is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR, an approach developed by psychotherapist Dr. Francine Shapiro, helps people of all ages heal from trauma and troubles of all kinds.
Children, in particular, experience a great deal of relief from internal upheaval via this approach. EMDR helps your child cope with their emotions. Is your child wrestling with grief and loss? Perhaps the effects of bullying, divorce, or social anxiety are affecting them adversely? Studies show that there is marked improvement for suffering or stifled kids after working with a qualified EMDR therapist.
If Kids Aren’t Discussing Scary Feelings, How Does EMDR Help Your Child Cope?
While EMDR therapy is not “conventional” talk-based therapy, it is evidence-based. Increasingly, it is considered a viable option for many children who are very young or resist the idea of therapy. EMDR is a happy alternative to the continual rehashing of the problem, even if a child has a difficult time articulating their feelings verbally. It is often a relief to many children to not have to re-experience and re-explain what bothers them.
When it comes to disturbing events, certain negative thoughts, beliefs, and sensations can settle into their minds and bodies. Words can only do so much. Clearing out the hurt, anxiety, and discomfort requires dedication to reprocessing the feelings and memories that keep your child mixed-up.
The idea is not to wipe away the scary event but to offer new ways to see, think about, and digest it positively.
So What Does EMDR Therapy Look Like?
It’s important to remember that the brain moves much more quickly than speech. Kids are always processing and learning new things. It can take quite a bit of time to accurately express their thoughts to someone else. EMDR therapy works quickly to support relief on that cognitive level. Relief comes through receipt of new information, not continually sorting through difficult emotions and drawing conclusions.
In EMDR sessions, kids are asked to think about the things that disturb them. Then, their therapist encourages kids to shift their eyes from one side to another. This mimics the eye movements we experience in a deep sleep, dream state. This is known as the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycle. Also, a therapist may use methods that include taps or sounds that move from one side of the body to the other.
With the help of such sensory stimuli, kids both experience their thoughts and observing them. Ultimately, the therapy helps change your child’s relationship to the scary event. This primes their mind for newer, happier associations.
Children are usually ready and willing to build new connections to get back to feeling good again. They just need a guide. An EMDR therapist shows them how to notice confusing memories, bodily sensations, and overwhelming emotions. Then, with helpful perspectives and useful tools, they can learn to see them without fear.
At that point, the strength and happiness you hope for them is theirs to grasp and grow with your guidance.
Taking the Next Step
EMDR can greatly improve the quality of your child’s life, relationships, and anxiety levels in a relatively short amount of time.
In EMDR therapy, your child is always in control. They can let the therapist know if they are too upset to continue the treatment at any time. The goal is to empower and encourage. Trust and safety are of the utmost importance.
Many therapists employ EMDR treatment in addition to other helpful youth-oriented therapies. Talk to your therapist about how EMDR helps your child cope with grief, trauma, and all the emotions that come with it.
Are you ready to learn more? We offer counseling for children and adolescents, please reach out soon for a consultation. We’re ready and willing to help you and your child move forward.