Skip to main content

Back to Basics: Teaching Focusing to Children

Marianne Thompson

Something has always bothered me about the preoccupation of academics and therapists with teaching and writing endlessly about techniques in focusing. With all the academic distinctions and procedural precision, in all of that refining, there seems to be no time for teaching children to focus. It all takes so much time trying to get it just right, and this is time that could be spent on future generations. We get bogged down in continual refinement to the point where we lose sight of getting this out to our children. Who is going to try this when it all seems so complicated? If John Bradshaw is right in saying that 96% of our families are dysfunctional, we could spend years on ourselves as we lose our children and grandchildren. When we’re working with adults it becomes apparent that many do need therapy, and to be well-trained is important. But it seems to me this perspective on adults prejudices us in working with kids. They don’t need really trained people to work with them. In my experience they’re more than ready to fly, if we only give them half a chance!

I taught my daughter Elizabeth to focus when she was three years old.

Now, ten years later, she is owning her feelings of wanting to please me and wanting to let go to become more of who she is rather than an extension of me. At a time when it’s “natural” for children to be moving away emotionally from parents, she has learned how to be gentle with herself and her struggle to grow. How many got stuck in adolescence with similar issues and have been walking around wounded ever since? To watch the ease with which she goes inside and her courage to be with such painful issues brings tear to my eyes.

As parents or adults working with children there are some simple basics we need to learn before we can teach them to focus. First, we need to have a body experience of what focusing feels like from the inside, and a body feel for needs to be a sense for not trying to fix or control the children. And third, it’s very important to have a sense for a caring feeling presence toward whatever hurts or frightens us before we can teach this to the kids. This step is really the most important for them, because just like most of us they have been trained to run from hurting places.

For those of you who might want more information on children and focusing there are several booklets and audiotapes that can be ordered by contacting Sheed and Ward, P. 0. Box 419492, Kansas City, MO 64141-6492,


#6 “Teaching Children to Focus” an interview with Marianne Thompson, booklet 180, audiotape $6.95.

#17 “How Adults Can Listen to Child then in a Focusing Way” by Gloria Bruinix, booklet $2.50, audiotape $8.95.

With these simple basics we’re ready to start leading kids back to themselves, helping them to find their own spirit. In my experience children are a lot like ducks in water when it comes to focusing: lead them to water and they simply take off. With all the dysfunction they could inherit, why not nip it in the bud? It’s never too late for ourselves, our families, and our planet to have another chance!

Marianne Thompson may be reached at 423 Buena Vista Dr., Santa Rosa, CA 95404. Email: [email protected]