Working with Children
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners.
by Del Hunter Morrill
How Stress Can Affect Children
When children are experiencing unrelenting stress or are worried, whether or not they are conscious of it, there are warning signs for those who have the eyes to see. Schoolwork may begin to slide. They may begin to lose things on a consistent basis, steal, become accident-prone, have headaches or stomachaches, bite their nails or pull hair or lashes. They may return to wetting the bed, after having been dry for some time. Health problems may start cropping up. Other people may notice a dramatic change in disposition. The child may begin to stop wanting to go to school or begin to cause problems in the classroom. They may lie and have other avoidance patterns. They may turn to drugs or alcohol. They may begin to have trouble sleeping, experience frequent nightmares or sleep walk.
Why children might come to a hypnotherapist
Issues, for which hypnotic methods and tools are a helpful response, include doing homework, performing better in the classroom, getting to school and liking it, improving grades, friendlessness, thumb sucking, bedwetting, nightmares and fear of the dark, stealing, low self-esteem, dealing with divorce or death in a family, illness – their own or someone in the family, and a myriad of other problems.
One of the most frequent reasons children are brought to hypnotherapists, once parents are aware of their work, is for learning improvement. When it comes to school life, there are many problems children can develop. This may be one of the largest areas of concerns for parents, and one for which good marketing can reap good results. Such arenas as reading, writing, memory, getting homework done, grades, peer pressure and friendships, classroom deportment, self-esteem, and even wanting to be in school are effectively and easily handled, for the most part, by one or two hypnosis sessions.
The Power of the Imagination
The doorway between the conscious and the unconscious mind is relatively easy to reach at the deepest levels, in a much quicker time that that required with a many adults. The use of stories, adventures, visualization, imaginative games, role playing, magic, puppets, costumes and any other tools that one’s imagination can bring forth are at the hypnotherapist’s disposal, and work most effectively with children.
CASE STUDY – Self-confidence and compulsiveness, 6-year-old girl – Wanted to work with me due to her brother’s experience with me. Came with her list of problems she wanted to handle, which she dictated to her grandmother. I quickly discovered that she was a very bright little girl. (Parentheses are her grandmother’s additions)
1. I want people to be nice to me.
2. I need to stop hugging people I don’t know
3. (Believes she doesn’t deserve to be treated well)
4. I need to express myself. I am afraid to speak up
5. I need to concentrate.
6. I need to listen and pay attention in school.
7. I forget things. I need to remember things I am told to do.
8. (Doesn’t like to be in the dark or alone)
9. I need to stop touching people in ways they don’t like.
10. I need to be liked for myself.
11. I need to be more confident.
12. I need help with my math
13. I want to feel pretty.
14. I need to tell the truth.
15. I want to feel good about myself and not let others mistreat me or hit me.
16. I need to behave.
Sarah proved to be very imaginative. Very little “traditional” hypnosis was involved throughout our sessions. In the first session, I used the pendulum with her, and then the Starlight-Guardian-Worry Tree-Garden images. I placed her at the beach. A rubber ball which the waves kept sending back to her, brings special gifts to her: courage in any situation day or night, the ability to remember what she is told to do, being more assertive with the courage to speak up for herself, taking better care of herself, and telling the truth.
In the second session – She reports that people have been kinder, she has been telling the truth, that when she is given things she feels she deserves them, she is able to speak up more, and she is able to remember what she is told to do. She admits that her teacher feels she still demands a lot of attention. She raises her hand a lot in class even when she doesn’t need to. I tell her the story of the little boy who cried wolf too many times. I ask her how she will remember this, and she says that she will see herself “crying wolf,” and sing her “wolf-song” to herself.
In the third session, it becomes clear that animals seem a good “inroad” into her imagination, since she comments on how well she did in class last week by remembering the story. Today she speaks of being scared of the dark and of the need for becoming more assertive. Also, she would like to be calmer, not talk so much or run around so much—to quiet her body more. Because she responded so well to the image of a wolf last time, I ask her if she would like to become other animals, whenever she feels the need to. She is excited about this. I ask her what animal she feels is the most courageous. She says “the lion.” I have her describe what is it about a lion that makes her feel he is courageous. I ask her if she would like to become a lion, whenever she feels afraid. She says “yes.” And, so I have her close her eyes and imagine the last time she felt afraid, and to become a lion, with those characteristics. I ask her how she feels. She is happy with this. I suggest that, when she goes into her room at night, she become the lion.
By the fourth session, she is no longer afraid of the dark. I continue to either undergird or redirect other issues she has been having. I ask her what animal she thinks would help her whenever she feels “lesser” than other people. She says, “The cheetah.” Again, I have her imagine the last situation in which she felt “lesser” than someone, and to become a cheetah—with the usual question of how she feels. Next, I ask her what animal is so sure of itself that it can help her “speak up for herself.” She says, “a cat.” And, thus it continues.
5th session – The final problem she wants to conquer is that of being too intensive and hyperactive with her mouth and body, in the classroom. So I ask her what animals she finds “calming.” She speaks of her pet birds which she likes taking out of their cage and petting. I ask her how she feels when she pets them. She says they calm her. And so I have her imagine herself doing that again with her eyes closed, and suggest that whenever she begins to feel she is becoming too busy with her mouth or body, she close her eyes a moment and imagine herself stroking her birds. By the time we have the last session, every one of the problems on her original list has been conquered to her and her parents’ satisfaction.
Del Hunter Morrill, now semi-retired, specializes in healing past abuse and other traumas, depression, anxiety and children’s problems. One of her several honors is the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Alliance of Professional Hypnotists (IAPH) http://hypnocenter.com