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Dealing with anxiety in kids through art

“Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”

Yoda, Attack of the Clones

Remember the time you found yourself doodling as you were having a stressful moment - that was a simple form of art therapy. An art activity is proven to reduce stress and anxiety, so whether your child is having a tough day or a tough year, they can benefit from making art.

Art therapies are so effective in increasing resilience and wellbeing that ‘Arts on Prescription Program’ has been introduced in the UK and Australia. GPs literally write out prescriptions for their patients to participate in a variety of art programs.

Next time your child is anxious or has had a tough day at school, set up a simple art activity. Here are a few pointers to help them get the most benefit out of the experience.

1. It is not about the artwork.

The focus is not on the artwork, in fact the end result doesn’t mater at all. Encourage them to make whatever they feel. It could be just drawing circles and lines or an elaborate painting. Whatever they do is fine.

2. If possible, provide various art materials.

Some of us love working with charcoal, others don’t like getting their hands dirty. Some love lush paint while others love fine-line pencils. Soft, slippery texture of clay can be calming to some while to others it is an uncomfortable experience. Give your child exposure to various materials so they can discover what works for them.

3. Observe but don’t direct.

Resist the temptation to direct the process, start by just observing. How vigorously they are painting, how hard they are pressing down on paper or clay, says a lot about their state and emotions. For children who have difficulties expressing or processing their emotions this is a particularly helpful way to communicate. You could open the conversation by saying things like “I love the energy of the lines you are making. What does that feel like?”

4. Play relaxing music while the child is working.

Music and the tactile process of art making help relax the nervous system. By releasing endorphins (the feel good hormone) they reduce stress, lower the heart rate and improve our sense of wellbeing.

If you find facilitating art experiences difficult, seek out a qualified art educator. Having a regular creative outlet creates a routine and places our minds in the state of relaxation and mindfulness. We can all do with a bit of that.

By Tamara Gulic Phoenix

Founder, director and art educator of Creative Ark. We are a school of creative learning that brings together art, science and self - care for children and adults. Book a FREE trial here.

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