Creative expression through writing and art can be a very therapeutic technique for children with emotional problems including depression, anxiety, self-hatred and rage. At home, you can encourage your child to deal with painful emotions by providing different kinds of freedom in creativity. One of the greatest outlets for powerful, overwhelming feelings is through art. All children, regardless of their limitations or struggles, have feelings that are often hard to describe and give meaning to. Helping them release these emotions is important.
A poet by the name of Kenneth Koch was working with stressed-out and depressed children in New York City. He found that when he encouraged them to express their feelings in unstructured poetry, they were able to deal with a lot of their overwhelming problems and challenges.
Go to the library, and find poetry books for children. Read aloud with your child and talk about what the author was feeling when writing each poem. Ask your son or daughter… what makes you angry? What makes you sad? What makes you giggle? Encourage your child to write free verse poems that describe emotions. Compare emotions to weather, colors, animals, items in nature, or imaginary things like monsters. Don’t correct your child’s poem, and allow complete freedom. Let the poem open up a discussion, or if the child is reluctant, consider it a starting point to simply get some feelings on paper.
Creative Expression In Drawing or Painting
This is a good activity for non-verbal children or those who have difficulty with written language. Buy art materials for your child, like sketch pads and crayons, or watercolor paints. Talk about colors and moods. Ask: When you’re angry, what color are you? When you’re sleepy, what color are you? What color would “happy” be? If you were really scared, what kind of animal would you be? Have your child choose the colors he’s “feeling” right now. Let him paint an abstract or simple picture that shows how he’s feeling. Next, have your child think about things that make him angry or sad. Let him paint out his frustrated or depressed feelings. If “mad” were a monster, what would he look like? Let your child have complete freedom to draw whatever his emotions guide him to create.
Choose Story Books that Evoke Emotion
Select books that describe real child-like feelings and emotions. Some examples are books like “Where the Wild Things Are,” by Maurice Sendak , “Today I Feel Silly, And Other Moods That Make My Day,” by Jamie Lee Curtis (the ONLY celebrity book author, in my opinion, who really writes outstanding books for kids), “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet,” by Mercer Mayer, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day,” by Judith Viorst (my favorite) etc. Read the story with your child and talk about emotions, feelings, and what the characters in the books are experiencing. Most children will seem to prefer the books that they can relate to most. If your daughter wants to hear stories about kids who are mad, or if your son likes books about fear of the dark, you might be on to something.
Remember that as a parent, you have access to reach your child and understand his feelings more than anyone else. By demonstrating that you are willing to listen, without judging, and that you’ll allow your child to freely express her moods in appropriate ways, you will foster emotional well-being. EVERY child wants, ultimately, to be heard and understood. Some children just need opportunities to approach difficult topics in a safe and nurturing environment.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.