In simple words, art therapy is a medium for helping kids deal with challenging emotions and express their thoughts and feelings. Art therapy allows children to process the things that have happened to them and helps reduce stress and anxiety as they work through these challenges. By providing kids a safe place to express their negative feelings and emotions, art therapy can help improve a child’s mental, emotion, and physical well-being.
Art therapy is not limited only to coloring but and can also include activities such as drawing pictures, writing stories, choreographing dances, and writing and performing dramas. It is a medium where kids can express their suppressed emotions which they may not be aware of. Sometimes, it may be difficult for them to express their emotions in words but the same emotions can be released through any of these creative mediums.
Art therapy for kids can be used to help a child cope with a major life event, such as a serious medical illness, separation of parents, change of homes, loss of a loved one or bullying. Art therapy can also help children who struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities, and has been shown to help children with behavioral issues and developmental delays like autism and ADHD.
Some of the benefits of art therapy are :
- Provides a release of suppressed emotions
- Improve self-awareness
- Reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression
- Help a child deal with feelings associated with sickness, trauma, and grief
- Boosts self-esteem
- Allow children to see problems from a different point of view
- Improve problem-solving skills
While art therapy sessions are conducted by a trained therapist, some simple activities which can be done by parents are listed below:
Positive Affirmation Bottle (any age group)
This activity is suitable for kids, teens and adults too. This is a very simple activity and can help children dealing with anxiety and low self- esteem. You need a plastic bottle, few poms poms, glitter and some food color (regular paint will also work). Add all the craft material in the bottle and fill the bottle with water. Encourage the child to say one positive thing about himself or herself for each pom pom added to the bottle. Each night the child can say positive affirmations, things grateful for or things that made them happy. You can even designate different colors for different things, such as green could represent positive things about today, pink-positive things about self, yellow-ways the child showed kindness etc.
Mandala Art (for age 4+)
The mandala, a Sanskrit word for “sacred circle” is the backdrop for this soothing technique that involves the child creating and coloring in their own mandala. The circular forms and wide range of creative expression on offer with this type of drawing and coloring can create a relaxed, meditative setting that serves as a safe space to explore feelings. Children can create their own mandala if they are old enough or you can get some printed mandala books which can be used for coloring. This can be very calming for children and help ease stress and anxiety.
Mask Making (for children age 7+)
The mask-making activity offers children an opportunity to explore their various personas. You could ask the child to create a mask that represents how they see themselves with everyone and another one that represents how they actually feel within, a part which other people don’t understand, or one that represents a part they don’t show to the world. Allowing the child to create a mask provides a means to explore hidden aspects of themselves that they either choose to suppress because of fear of judgment or lack of acceptance. Do not judge their work and give them the freedom to express themselves in any way they like. Ask them to talk about their masks only if they feel like and let them know that you are always there to support them.
Postcards ( for age 5+)
This activity seeks to provide space for children to open up to their thoughts and emotions around a person or circumstance that’s caused them pain. With this project, you give the child a blank postcard and ask them to draw a picture to represent how they feel on the front of the card and write what they would say to that person about the situation if they could on the back. This activity can create self-awareness about what the child is feeling and also help the child release the pain they are holding without the worry of confrontation.
Whether you’re looking for ways to help your child cope with a significant life event, or you just want to connect with your child better, these activities will definitely help you!
(The author is Mental Health Counsellor & Art-based Therapist.)
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