September/October 2015 Issue
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Tarot Reading for Children: 12 Tips
This article was written by Corrine Kenner
posted under Tarot
My daughter Julia has a deck of tarot cards. She looks through it when we’re watching television in the living room. She pulls cards for her sisters, and the study the images together. Sometimes she even takes the deck to play with at her grandmother’s house.
Unfortunately, some of the cards are missing, and some of them are bent. But that’s understandable—Julia is only a year old.
Granted, she’s a little young for the complexities of the tarot. Before long, however, I fully expect that she’ll want me to give her “real” tarot readings—almost as often as she’ll want me to read to her from her favorite volume of Dr. Seuss.
While the tarot is usually used to examine the questions and concerns of adults, it’s an equally effective tool for young people. Children have issues that are as serious to them as the problems faced by their elders. The desire to please parents, teachers, and coaches can make some youngsters as anxious as career-minded adults working for a promotion. Homework, tests, and pop quizzes are a constant source of stress. Add sibling rivalry, peer pressure, and adolescent hormones to the mix, and it’s no surprise that some kids are practically nervous wrecks. It could even be argued that young people need a tool like the tarot even more than adults, because they typically haven’t developed the resources and coping mechanism that maturity brings.
In fact, it can be extremely rewarding to read tarot cards for children. Young people are often more enthusiastic about tarot readings than adults. They’re happy to talk about themselves, open in their descriptions of their questions and concerns, and eager to get advice from a seemingly neutral third party like the tarot. What’s more, children are usually unreserved in their comments or criticisms of the images on each card, and willing to give you valuable feedback about your accuracy as a reader.
- Choose a G-rated deck. Selecting a deck for children’s readings is very much like choosing a deck for public readings at psychic fairs and festivals. The decks should be eye-catching, colorful, and suitable for all audiences. They shouldn’t depict naked people, or gruesome bloody Swords, or shocking violent images like the Grim Reaper mowing down a series of hapless victims.
The standard Universal Tarot, Rider-Waite-Smith, Voyager Tarot, Whimsical Tarot, the Tarot of Oz, and Alice in Wonderland decks are good choices for children’s readings.
In fact, if you are reading for very young or school age children, you may wish to eliminate frightening or disturbing images altogether. It’s probably best to pull the Death card, the Devil, and the Ten of Swords out of the deck before you shuffle and spread the cards. There will still be enough cards left to give an accurate, effective reading.
- Get the parents’ permission. When children ask you for a tarot reading, check with their parents before begin. Ask, “Is it okay with you if we look at these cards together?” You might want to reassure them that your readings will be lighthearted by adding, “It’s just for fun.”
If parents say “no,” be gracious and support their decision. It doesn’t mean they’re bigoted or overprotective. It’s possible that they’re simply in a hurry—or that they’ve never had a reading themselves, and that they’re unwilling to experience their first reading with their children involved.
If parents aren’t available—for example, if you are reading in public or a child is visiting your home—don’t take chances. Even if you’re fairly certain that a reading would be okay with a parent, you might want to limit the reading to a single card, and keep it light and upbeat. If a child draws an Ace of Wands, for example, your reading can be as simple as saying, “You are a talented creative person. You could be a writer or an artist!”
- Explain the process. Before each reading begins, explain how you plan to shuffle, spread, and read the cards. You might need to explain what tarot cards are. Keep your descriptions simple. Tarot cards are commonly known as fortunetelling cards. Even if you personally use them in more complex ways, you can certainly introduce them that way to a child. Alternatively, you can tell your young clients that tarot cards can be used to tell stories about their lives, and that they can suggest solutions to their problems.
- Keep your readings age-appropriate. You can read cards for curious children as young as three or four. Of course, your reading style—your vocabulary, your explanations, and your attitude—will vary according to the age of your client.
You may want to relate the images on each card to stories, movies, and television shows that youngsters will recognize. You could compare the Fool, for example, to Pinocchio, or the Emperor to Captain Kirk.
Your intention is also an important factor in a child’s reading. As you prepare yourself to read for a youngster, plan to focus only on the positive so that you can offer an uplifting and optimistic reading.
- Clarify each child’s questions or concerns. When you read tarot cards for an adult, it’s helpful for you to know which areas your client wants to explore. The same holds true for your readings with children.
Until most kids are seven or eight, however, they won’t know how to articulate a question for the cards. They can tell you what they like to do—which games they like to play, for instance—which could give you some direction. For the most part, however, you’ll probably have the best results if your readings simply focus on each child’s talents and abilities. Use the cards to pinpoint their strengths, praise their accomplishments, and to encourage them in their development.
Children in elementary school are some of the most appealing clients, because they are able to pinpoint their questions and concerns—and they’re unfailingly honest about their questions and concerns. You can get by with asking an opening question that gets right to the point, such as, “Do you have any questions about the future?” or, “Do you have any problems?”
Teenagers are not always so open. They typically want to keep their issues private. You may want to offer a generalized suggestion for the reading, such as friends, family issues, relationships, or school, which you can both use as a starting point.
- Keep your readings short. Most preschoolers have an attention span of about thirty seconds, so your readings should take about fifteen seconds. One or two sentences highlighting a preschooler’s talents, abilities, and potential is more than sufficient.
A reading for a child in elementary school should last five or ten minutes, and a reading for a teenager should generally run from fifteen to twenty minutes.
If you normally charge money for tarot readings, consider charging little or nothing for children’s readings. For Preschoolers, readings should be free, because they should be extremely brief and essentially painless. So, in most cases, should you do readings for elementary school children, think of them as a goodwill gesture toward their parents, who may become paying customers. You might want to offer a deep discount rate for teenagers—but to encourage their investment in the reading process, ask that they pay for it themselves without help from their parents.
- Make sure that children are active participants, not simply observers. Children and teenagers will connect with the cards and get more from a reading if they are actively involved in the process of reading.
Start the traditional way, by shuffling the deck. While most youngsters can’t shuffle an oversized tarot deck themselves, they can cut the cards, and that’s enough to imbue the deck with their energy and intention.
Before you let them touch your cards, however, you might want to check their hands. Kids can be kind of sticky. You might want to ask them to wash up before you begin, or keep a package of wet wipes handy.
Once you’ve laid the cards out on the table, actively draw each child into the reading. Ask questions that will help them picture themselves in the spread, like, “Which card looks like you?” or, “How does this card remind you of your situation?” You could even ask, “What does this picture mean to you?”
- Involve the parents. When you read tarot cards for young people, you may find yourself dealing with ethical considerations and responsibilities that don’t come up when you read for adults. All of your clients, regardless of age, deserve the same degree of compassion and respect. Unlike adults, however, young people don’t need—or expect—the same level of privacy that adults require.
In fact, it’s probably a good idea to have a parent present during a child’s tarot reading. Parents need to know what information their children are getting from other adults, and you need to protect yourself against misunderstandings.
It’s a simple fact that the actual amount of privacy that each individual needs varies by age. I’ve developed what I call the “bathtub rule” to use as a guideline. If children are still young enough to need a parent to watch them while they’re in the tub, they should have a parent present at their tarot reading too. Elementary school children can usually bathe themselves, but they often need help rinsing the shampoo out of their hair; their parents should be on hand for a tarot reading, as well. And while teenagers will typically lock and barricade a bathroom door to protect their privacy, their parents still pay for the hot water they use. Teenagers’ parents have a right to know—at least in general terms—what their kids are up to.
The actual amount of parental participation in a tarot reading should also vary by age. Very young children should be sitting on a parent’s lap—in part so that parents can keep their youngsters from pulling all of the cards off the table, but also offer feedback and help you interpret the cards in language their parents understand.
Elementary school children may sit still next to a parent, but those parents should be silent observers. You should encourage school age children to ask their own questions, and you should discuss the cards directly with them.
And the parents of teenagers should probably linger somewhere in the background, within earshot but with that far-away expression parents of teens learn to adopt when they’re in public together.
Most of your readings for young people will involve fairly predictable issues: concerns about parents, siblings, school, and playmates. If by some odd chance, however, a young person confides in you that they are in harm’s way—from drugs, alcohol, or the like—end the reading. Rather than offering the child your advice, tell the parents about the problem.
- Offer specific advice and suggestions that children can use. Children typically don’t understand long-winded explanations about archetypes, synchronicity, or the collective unconscious. They need specific advice that relates directly to their own lives, and concrete suggestions for actions that they can initiate. They also appreciate being placed in a position of power and control over their lives.
For every card that you read for a child or a teenager, find a clear and succinct message that will make sense, or a suggestion that they can follow. If you a young person draws the Hanged Man for example, recommend a solitary activity like journaling.
And remember, just as with adults, you might be the only tarot reader that some children ever see; the messages you relay during a reading may stay with them for the rest of their lives. Avoid making any predictions that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy or limit a child’s growth in any way.
- Make sure each child understands the reading. As you conclude, ask your young clients to repeat what they’ve heard or describe what they’ve learned. Then clarify the cards’ message if necessary.
- Set limits. Children, just like some adults, thrive on the one-on-one attention they receive during a tarot reading. Some may linger at the table and never want to leave. You might want to make habit of telling your young clients, before you begin, how long you will spend with them. “I will read three cards: one for your past, one for your present, and one for your future.” When you’re through, say, “We’ll have to wrap this up now. I can only answer one more question.”
- Send them away happy. It’s easiest to conclude a children’s reading by sending them off with a parting gift. You might want to end each reading by letting children draw a single card from an extra, give-away tarot deck. You could also write a one-sentence summary of their reading on a colorful piece of notepaper or the back of your business card. You could even give them a small polished stone or lucky penny to keep as a token of their reading.
No matter how you conduct a tarot reading for a child, you’ll probably find that you enjoy it as much—if not more—than reading for adults, and that it’s possible to remain true to the nature and the meanings of the cards regardless of your client’s age.
Corrine Kenner specializes in bringing metaphysical subjects down to earth. Her work on the tarot is widely published, and her classes and workshops are perennial favorites among students in the Midwest. Corrine is a certified tarot master, and she holds... Read more
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