Posts Tagged ‘child art therapy’

Art in therapy: Why children use art naturally in child therapy

August 1st, 2011

Why is art therapy and the creative process something that children naturally want to engage in? What’s the reason we create, and why do we all have an urge to express ourselves?

You may not believe you are creative, but if you look at your daily activities, there are creative ways you express yourself and you may not even be aware. These creative activities may involve the love of making a delicious meal from scratch, tending to a garden, decorating your home, designing spreadsheets to keep track of your activities, creating innovative systems, planning a getaway excursion, or enjoying the delight of singing or dancing (among other creative pursuits).

The author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a pioneer in positive psychology and author of the book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention writes about creative process called “flow”. Flow occurs when we are engaged in a creative activity where we engage in the process of performing a task, immersed in the feeling of focus and full engagement (often leading to sense of losing track of time). He explored what makes life worth living and how when we engage our creativity we achieve a sense of satisfaction and pleasure.

Cathy Malchiodi, art therapy pioneer examines the question in  Psychology Today ,  exploring what is art for, and why do we engage in the creative process across the globe and throughout the ages.

Both authors note the inherent need for creativity as a means of connection, pleasure, engagement, transcendence, and self-expression. Naturally, children gravitate to creative activities for play, processing ideas, developing mastery, pure pleasure and delight of exploration and expression. So it makes sense when a child is in therapy and they are naturally drawn to the art materials, toys, and creative activities where they can express themselves. Therapy can be a daunting experience, regardless of your age, and for children coming to therapy art provides a way to easily engage the child, and this expands across economic strata and cultural differences. As adults we can learn much from children’s  natural expression of their creativity and easy engagement in the process of “flow”.

Want to connect with your creative flow? Try a new class, take a dance class or exercise class, join the swim group, explore a watercolor class, gardening class, writing class, photography class, or cooking class. Whatever you enjoy spend an afternoon immersed in exploring, dive into the creative process further and then journal about what you discovered about yourself and the process.

Share

Why developing self-esteem in children may be overrated, seriously?!

May 4th, 2011

I came across a study recently on self-compassion, and how people who are more compassionate with themselves have less depression, anxiety, and tend to be more resilient, optimistic, and happier. So it got me thinking about how we encourage self-esteem in children, yet we don’t spend as much time and energy on cultivating self-compassion.

What does it mean to be self-compassionate and how can we teach children how to become more compassionate?

Adams and Leary (2007) define self-compassion as the ability to react with self-kindness and understanding when encountering difficult situations. In addition, self-compassion involves mindfulness of nonjudgmental awareness, and acceptance of one’s common humanity and understanding that they are part of a larger experience, and that others too share the common experience of difficult situations and emotions. Those who exhibit higher traits of self- compassion are less extreme in their reactions and fixate less on problems than those who exhibit lower self-compassion.

Although self-esteem (feeling good about one’s self and maintaining a positive self view) is related to self-compassion, it has been noted in research that when experiencing negative events a self-compassionate mindset may be more beneficial than high self-esteem.

As a child there are days when you get picked on, forget your homework, get totally embarrassed by a friend or a teacher. Encouraging self-compassion in children reduces negative emotions and increases personal responsibility for an undesired situation, whereby a child realizes their mistakes, without being overwhelmed by negative emotions. In doing so they are less likely to melt down or shut down or avoid feelings or circumstances in the future, and are likely to increase their ability to self-regulate their emotions and behaviors.

So how can you help your child increase their self-compassion?

Give them an opportunity to process the experience through play or art. Children often will explore their emotions and feelings through art and creative play (yes, even teens). Before you try to have a talk with your child allow them some space to understand and explore the experience of what happened. Provide them with a favorite creative activity, such as drawing or building with legos, or give them some quite time in their room.

  • Model compassionate self-talk. If your child is struggling with a situation or problem let them express what they are feeling. If you find they are becoming negative and self-blaming acknowledge their feelings (“yes, I understand you are mad”…) then encourage your child to be compassionate in how they talk to himself or herself (“everyone has a bad day, today was a difficult one, tomorrow will be different”).
  • Encourage flexible thinking. Children who are at a younger developmental level will often think that things are ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’, meaning they made a mistake then they believe they are bad. This black and white thinking may keep your child stuck perseverating that they are “not good enough” or “there is something wrong with them”. Acknowledge the situation and then encourage all the different ways your child could have handled the situation or can cope with it next time. Be playful and allow for divergent creative thinking and downright silly ideas.
  • Ask them what they would they say if it happened to a friend. This gives your child some distance from the problem and allows them the opportunity for awareness and kindness.
  • Consider Consequences. Parents often struggle with consequences and worry about too few consequences or too many consequences. Criticism and discipline from an authoritarian “my way or the high way”  style parenting will impact your child’s development of self-compassion; whereas an authoritative parenting style provides structure, support, guidance and feedback while helping your child resolve the issue.

Notice how you model your behaviors. Children naturally mimic the adults in their lives, so be aware of the messages you send when you make a mistake or encounter a problem. Modeling self-compassion is the best gift to give yourself and your child too.

Do you need more help for your child? Schedule a complimentary Child Support Consultation by clicking here

Share