Hypnotherapy can work wonders with children. I was reminded of this earlier this year when my daughter (age 3) was going for her immunisation boosters. I found out, quite by accident some time ago that she had developed a needle phobia. I was surprised by this as she would not have learned this response from me or her dad, but on reflection, it was obvious; When she was 1 she had a hospital admission where she needed a long course of IV drugs. Though this in itself was not the issue...
Whilst we were staying in hospital, the canula that was administering the drugs fell out from under the bandage many times. With her being so small and her veins being so difficult to access, there were two occasions where the medical team struggled to fit it back in as quickly as they had the first time. Because the drugs at that time were quite literally life saving, it was essential that the canula was fitted properly and timeously. As I held her tight and did my best to comfort her, my heart was breaking but I knew there was no question but that she needed the drugs. It’s amazing how a few years on, the muscle memory remains, even if the conscious mind cannot quite access the memory – her legitimate reason for the fear.
When her boosters were coming up, I knew that I would have to come up with some kind of strategy to enable her to receive these without extreme fear. Without a strategy, I was in no doubt that she was going to allow anyone to come anywhere near her with a needle. Never mind actually getting the booster immunisations.
I swiftly put my hypnotherapist hat on and had a think. The thing is – children love stories. When I use hypnosis with children and young people, it is generally stories that I use, to support the child to move towards desired behaviour change. You see, stories create magic and a beautiful sense of wonder at the world. Incorporating stories into hypnosis with children (and often adults for that matter) allow them to learn lessons about themselves, the world, about other people and how to make positive changes to their behaviours. I decided this was going to be my approach with my little girl.
With this in mind, I had a think about what her current favourite programme was… ‘How to train your dragon’. This was going to be my best bet. To her, the dragons were influential and could teach her more than I, as her mum, could.
From here, I sat her down on my knee and developed a little story that what went a little something like this:
When children are very small, they need a little bit of help to grow up big and strong like their mummies, daddies and bigger brothers and sisters. Doctors are brilliant and they help little children to grow up to be big and strong. But to be able to do this really well, they sometimes need a bit of help from other big strong creatures.
One day, one of the doctors from the surgery had a very clever idea. She decided that she was going to go to see the dragons because she had heard that all the dragon babies grew up to be big and strong adult dragons. She knew that the dragon mummies and daddies were doing something really special to make sure that their babies grew up to be so big and so strong.
The doctor went on a little adventure to meet one of the mummy and daddy dragons. They had a lovely chat and they told her the secret trick that made their babies big and strong. You see, they gave their dragon babies a very special potion. And this special potion made their dragon babies big and strong.
Now, the doctor was a very nice doctor who really wanted to help all the children in Fife. And the mummy and daddy dragons liked the doctor so much and liked how she wanted to help the boys and girls who came to see her. Because of this, they gave her some of the magic potion that she could use with her young patients. They promised her it would help to make the boys and girls big and strong and help to keep them safe just like their dragon babies.
The doctor promised the mummy and daddy dragon that she would share this brilliant potion with all the little boys and girls she met and she went back to the surgery very happy and excited. She went on to give the special potion to lots of little girls and boys and they grew up to be big and strong just like the dragon babies did.
When I shared this story with my daughter, her face lit up. She was so excited that she was going to be made bigger and stronger with the help of the dragons that were such role models for her. She skipped to the surgery, very happy about ‘getting her dragons’.
Now, don’t get me wrong… it wasn’t such a magical cure that resulted in absolutely no tears. However, there was no ordeal (as there had been before) once she saw the needle. Nor were there masses and masses of tears (again, as there had been before) after the nurse gave her the injection. If anything, she had a very quick little cry and then was delighted because she had ‘dragons in her body that were going to make her big and strong’.
So you see, stories really are wonderful when you are supporting your child through difficult and challenging times. Children are so accustomed to working with their imagination. They live in it on a daily basis. They are shopkeepers one minute and firefighters the next. They traverse numerous career choices in a matter of moments!!
And all of this can be used to the advantage of your little ones. Equally, it can be used in such a wide range of circumstances – whether it’s helping your child to sleep, or developing confidence and self esteem, separation anxiety and even tantrums (what’s not to love!!). These are just a few examples but the opportunities to use positive hypnotic suggestion are endless.
And here’s the important thing: You don’t need to be a hypnotherapist to use hypnotic suggestions with children. As a parent, you know your child best. Here are my tips for using similar techniques with your child:
Think about the behaviour that your child may want to change. What outcome is being looked for? (Remember: your desired behaviour change for your child may be different to their desired behaviour change. It is important to bear this in mind.)
Once you have identified the behaviour change (in my daughter’s case ‘big and strong’) use the words throughout the story to imprint the message.
Tap into their interests; tell a story using characters that will resonate with them. Their metaphors and interests will be far more effective than the ones you might use.
Make sure the story is a positive one with a lesson to be learned (do not incorporate stories or use language of failure or that may scare them. If for instance your child is scared of dragons, the story I developed above, of course would not be suitable for them. ** Please see side note below).
Enjoy the stories! For they really are wonderful. And the learning that can be imparted is truly magical!
Please note: Feel free to use the story I have written above. However it is important that the content is appropriate for your child and their interests.
** You may have noticed that I didn't use the words 'magic potion' as might be expected as being more usual in this kind of story. There is an interesting reason behind this. When my daughter was in the hospital for a minor procedure (subsequent to the earlier hospital admission described above), the nurse told her she was going to put some magic cream on her hand (essentially a numbing cream so that they could put a canula in for the anaesthetic). My daughter began to scream crying uncontrollably at this. I was astounded. She is a very affable and good natured child and I couldn't understand her reaction. She downright refused to let the nurse put the cream on her hand. It was only when I thought about it later that I realised she was responding to the word 'magic'. She had obviously heard the cream being described as 'magic' before both by me and the hospital staff and her subconscious mind had made the association between 'magic cream' and pain. To this day, I have never used that word with her again in this context. Never underestimate the power of words.