4 Ways to Soothe Your Preschooler’s New Normal Anxieties Through Art
How to use art therapy to give your kids a safe place to process events and how they feel about them
There’s no question about it: these have been very challenging times. The desire to allow your children to run around as freely as they used to grows stronger the longer their movement remains limited.
Each child may react differently to these circumstances. Some just take it in stride and behave as they normally would. Others may start begging for activities that can pass for the things that they were accustomed to doing.
So how can you tell if your child is coping well during this period? When it comes to preschoolers, they cannot always be expected to have the right words to articulate their thoughts. If they appear to be acting as they normally have, how can you tell if anything is amiss?
One way is to talk to them and encourage them to share their thoughts. Some children are able to accurately name their emotions. If your child is one of them, great!
But what if they’re not?
Benefits of Art Therapy
Art therapy is a way of using art to explore emotions. More than just encouraging children to nurture the gift of their creativity, this can be a way for them to release any pent up emotions and give you a glimpse of what’s really going on in their minds.
Through art therapy, parents can give children a safe place to process events and how they feel about them. Beyond simply helping to release pent up emotions, art therapy can also help your kids reduce negative emotions, and allow them to process the events happening to and around them.
“For children who may not be able to articulate thoughts, sensations, emotions or perceptions, it is one way to convey what may be difficult to express with words,” explains psychologist and expressive arts therapist Cathy Malchiodi PhD. “It is also a sensory-based approach that allows the children to experience themselves and communicate on multiple levels—visual, tactile, kinesthetic and more.”
Things you can try
There is no need to be a certified art therapist to take a leaf from their book. Here are some examples of simple activities you can do with your child.
1. Mandala art. Mandalas don’t have to be the complex patterns you see in traditional art. In art therapy, you just start with a circle on a blank page, and then fill the circle in with your choice of symbols, patterns, and colors.
"In art therapy, clients may be given an open-ended prompt to create the mandala by adding colors and patterns," explains art therapist Carolyn Mehlomakulu. "At times, I have even used the mandala template as a container for anger, encouraging a frustrated child to 'scribble all your anger inside the circle.'"
Use pre-printed pages or encourage your children to create and color their own! The repetitive pattern and intricate design helps soothe children by making them focus on their work, helping them find the calm within themselves.
2. Create postcards. Let your children design their own postcards and send them out to loved ones! You can give them prompts like where they would like to go with the loved one they miss or let them be creative and draw freely on the postcard.
At a time when we are almost equal parts connected because of technology and disconnected because of physical distance, it’s nice to have a way to express how they feel towards people and show them how much they miss them.
Lost a loved one? This could also be a way to help your child process their feelings about the event as well.
3. Draw how you feel. Give your child a piece of paper or an entire sketchbook if you prefer. Provide them with materials to use for drawing, cutting, and pasting then encourage them to choose colors and pictures that help them turn their emotions into a work of art. It will give you insight into how they’re doing while letting them safely explore emotions they might not be able to fully understand yet.
4. Just draw. Have you ever felt the need to just get a piece of paper and start doodling or coloring? By encouraging kids to just put pencil (or any other coloring material) to paper their thoughts can flow freely the same way that doodling does for adults.
To direct or not to direct?
It can be tempting to tell a child to do things a certain way and sometimes, it is okay, even necessary. But when it comes to art therapy, it is best to let them create as freely as they can.
Creating art is, however, a great way to bond with your children. One way to encourage them to try these activities is to let them see you doing them as well. That way, you can take the opportunity to ask them about what they’re creating and what it represents.
Whether they appear to be affected by the current situation or not, letting them express themselves through art is a great way for you to gain insight into your preschooler’s mind.
Remember that the environment you create for your children will also shape how willing and how well they are able to communicate their emotions. By being open to hearing them out and acknowledging their feelings, you are showing them that they can always rely on you--something that they are sure to take with them as they grow older.
• Cleveland Clinic, How Art Can Help You Cope With the Pandemic, October 26, 2020
• Creativity in Therapy, Mandalas, November 5, 2012
• Monday Mandala, Our Mandalas, 2021
• Psychology Today, Child Art Therapy: How It Works, January 31, 2016
• Very Well Mind, How to Relieve Stress With Art Therapy, January 24, 2020
About The Writer
Rosabelle Fontelera-Yong is married with two kids ages 8 and 5, and also calls herself a mom to two dogs and six cats. She is a Creative Writing graduate from UP Diliman and has been a freelance writer since 2009, with a wide range of uncredited and credited work under her belt.
Some of her work can be found in print via Animal Scene and Wedding Essentials, and online via Mantle and edamama.
When she is not writing, she spends her time crafting, painting, and baking, occasionally with help from her kids. Rosa enjoys encouraging creativity in her children which is evident in the number of drawings and diagrams they have plastered on various walls around the house.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and do not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.