A Complete Guide to Helping Your Child Cope With Emotional Issues Through Art Therapy


For centuries, art has been used as a means of expression. And over the years, psychologists and scientists have authenticated that art can also be used as therapy to combat emotional stress and express feelings. Additionally, art therapy can help children express themselves better and resolve emotional issues. According to Dr. Aarti Bakshi, Developmental Psychologist and SEL Consultant at SAAR Education, art therapy for children allows them to freely show their ideas and thoughts without using words to enhance a child’s growth and development. Here’s everything you need to know about art therapy for children.

Art therapy for children

Children communicate in many ways. Children who are reluctant to express their thoughts verbalize things once they form a rapport with the facilitator. This confidence helps them suddenly feel relaxed and communication is easier. So they talk and draw or doodle and paint and color or play with toys while talking. That’s what art therapy does. The process of creating art can improve a child’s mental health, social skills, self-esteem and general well-being. Different artistic mediums enhance creativity by what their mind wants to express. Art therapy also increases concentration, attention span and the ability to follow instructions.

Group art therapy

Children learn by making social connections with their peers. Art therapy in a group session improves concentration, verbal skills, eye contact and on-task behaviors. In group therapy, children can find support from their peers, gain the confidence to share their experiences, and easily open up to others. The core of the group sessions is to prevent the child’s feelings of isolation and reinforce their sense of normalcy. Participants can draw inspiration and strength from the ingenuity of those who are also going through the same situation they are in right now.

The difference between art therapy and art classes is that these classes focus more on artistic productions, unlike art therapy, where the goal is to help individuals express their thoughts and renew their outlook on life.

The benefits of art therapy

Children of all ages, whether or not they have special needs, may not have the language skills to express themselves, but they still have a voice. Art therapy awakens the child’s imagination and creativity to help him discover who he is and how to appeal to his senses. They also bring a feeling of calm to the body and have a positive impact on the state of mind, the interpretation of the environment and the emotional state.

1. Emotional regulation: In addition to being an emotional outlet for children, expressive arts therapy can help them develop and better understand their feelings. Being angry or hurt isn’t always easy to describe in words, but a child can put those feelings into a drawing, color or doodle and make it easy for themselves and others to understand. It also creates a starting point for conversation, which can lead to a more open expression of feelings and thoughts.

2. Psychologically safe: Putting their feelings into the drawing of a poem, painting a situation gives children a safe outlet for negative emotions through an enjoyable activity, which speeds up the process of healing and growth. But the expressive arts aren’t just for coping, they also have great effects on a child’s normal development. Art can become an alternative language for a child. For example, if a child is going through difficult times due to school failures or peer pressure, their social behavior and academic performance may be affected. Art therapy can become an outlet simply to express their negative thoughts and a way to better understand themselves and the situation.

3. Pride and freedom of expression: The process and creation of artwork gives the child a sense of fulfillment and acts as a positive coping strategy. Bringing out these negative thoughts and memories through art helps pinpoint the main problem for a therapeutic start. Paintings and drawings can be more than just a source of pleasure and entertainment. They can become a diversion for children from the real world, where they can explore and express themselves freely.

4. Art and our cerebral connection: On a deeper level, art appears to impact neural connections in the brain, which act as the wiring for learning. Whatever art form is used, the senses must work and deep thought is a requirement. This leads to the development of skills such as recognizing the difference between the abstract and the real, understanding patterns, making observations about the world, and forming mental representations of what is real or imagined. Overall, the expressive arts help children develop big-picture thinking skills through the interaction of complex thought processes.

5: Cognitive improvement: Being creative helps us see the world differently with a new perspective. Making art activates regions of our brain and frontal lobe responsible for problem solving and memory.

6. Development of fine motor skills: Children can control their hand-eye coordination and flexibility when searching for art materials, improving their motor skills. A simple crumpling of paper, paint, pinch of clay, pressing and stringing through beads exercises a child’s fingers, hands and wrists.

Letting children engage in artistic activity allows children to navigate the ups and downs of life and showcase their individual personality and expression. Expressions through arts and crafts help children and adults recover from trauma and negative situations. Art therapy helps children and adults connect with their inner selves by providing activities that involve a creative process. Using art to tap into their deepest thoughts can result in unfiltered responses and honest feedback they can’t put into words.

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