Art therapy exercises for anxious children

Small children live by their feelings. If parents do not forbid them to express them, then the likelihood that the child will experience psychological trauma or personality complexes is significantly reduced. However, adults do not always pay enough attention to what the child is experiencing. Most often, he is required to comply with external conditions and follow the rules: behave well at guests and public places, study excellently, be brave, kind, smart and generous, and much more, which is included in the concept of “worthy and developed personality”.  

By “adjusting” the child to the requirements that are present in every family and differ from each other, parents may unconsciously stop noticing his personality and feelings. This can lead to an increase in mental stress and, as a result, high anxiety.

Today, the percentage of children with high levels of anxiety is quite large. This is due to the multiple demands and expectations of parents, caregivers and teachers.

Anxiety prevents a child from achieving potential and showing ability. Teachers strive to reduce its level so that the learning process is effective and the child can not only gain knowledge, but also interact in a group – increased anxiety makes him constrained, which prevents the emergence of new contacts and close relationships between children.

Parents can also help their child relieve anxiety. For this, exercises that are related to creativity can come in handy. By doing it, children get the opportunity to turn off internal control, relax, surrender to the creative process and their natural needs.

How does anxiety manifest in a child?

Anxious children differ from their peers in thoughtfulness, an increased level of self-control and analysis. They may look and act restless – they think that something bad can happen to them, they will not cope with the task, they will be laughed at, and so on. Because of this, anxious children are in constant stress – they try to control not only their internal processes, such as feelings of joy or sadness, but also the world around them – they worry about loved ones, their successes, achievements, cannot be distracted from gloomy thoughts and experiences when faced with problems.

As a rule, anxiety causes the appearance of fears – public speaking, new acquaintances, occupations, hobbies, life changes, and many others. 

If anxiety is too high, there is a danger that over time it will develop into a character complex and its symptoms will become a habitual way of behavior. Therefore, it is important to help the child reduce its level.

Why are children anxious?

The emergence of anxiety can be facilitated by the overestimated requirements of parents or teachers, a large number of additional classes, after which the psyche remains overloaded, frequent criticism of achievements, lack of praise and rewards in the family, devaluation of feelings, thoughts and actions. As a result of this attitude, the child may feel bad, inept or a failure, and seeks to control his behavior even more in order to deserve a positive assessment from the outside, which provokes an increase in anxiety.

Why is creative exercise good for kids?

Systematic art therapy sessions allow the child to get used to a state of relaxation and accept himself as anything – not ideal, simple, not always successful, capable of making mistakes. When he goes through this experience, then an understanding is born in him that one can openly show his abilities, without fear of being imperfect or making a mistake. He finally begins to enjoy the process of activity, and not aim only at the result.

Art therapy techniques for reducing anxiety

There are many ways to reduce anxiety. Art therapy is especially effective. Working with paints, pencils, plasticine, the child lets go of the process of internal self-control, gets the opportunity to surrender to his feelings, live them and comes to the understanding that it is impossible to achieve an ideal state in life – this helps him to relax and just be himself.

Exercise “Monotype”

You will need glass to complete this exercise. You can use the one that is in the photo frame, having pre-processed the edges so that the child does not get hurt while working. Get your paints and brushes ready. Invite your child to paint on glass. There is no need to give exact instructions on what the drawing should be. Let the child try to draw the way he wants. Show him how the colors on the glass are strangely mixed, blurred, flow into each other.

This exercise is useful in that it does not allow the child to control the product of his activity, because the paint cannot be held on the glass – thanks to the water it spreads, and the drawn figure does not keep its original shape. Usually, this process drags on children for a long time, allowing them to find contact with their unconscious. In continuation of the work, you can make an impression on paper by attaching a blank sheet to the glass. A drawing printed on it can be studied for a long time, fragments and parts can be painted with a brush to get a plot. Psychologists use this technique to analyze the personality of a child, the process itself is enough for parents and children.  

Exercise “Reverse play”

Prepare whatman paper and magazines from which you can cut pictures. Invite the children to paint a big picture. He can come up with a topic on his own, or he can work without being tied to a specific plot.

Outline the rules of the game: you need to stick pictures on a Whatman paper, following the instructions of an adult exactly the opposite. For example, an adult dictates: stick the palm tree in the center, and the child, according to the rules of the exercise, do the opposite, must stick it in any other place. This technique is usually a lot of fun for children – they like it when you can deliberately break the rules that they are always used to following – they know that they will not do everything the way they were told and they will not get anything for it. Thus, the child gets a new experience, tries himself in it, and for him the chances increase that in a real situation, he will not become so anxious when he accidentally makes a mistake or wants to do his own thing.

Body Drawing Exercise

This exercise requires space and special conditions – a lot of paper, a spacious place and old clothes that are not afraid to get stained with paint. You can cover the floor with Whatman paper or wallpaper, stock up on plenty of time, water and paints. It is best to use finger paints – they are easily washed off from clothes and hands. Offer to draw with parts of the body – this can be anything that the child wants to paint – arms, legs, and even belly. You can simply apply paint to the body and then leave prints on the paper, or you can draw individual drawings and transfer them to paper as well. The resulting images can be painted with a brush.  

This technique will allow you to relax and go beyond what is allowed – to do something that a child with an increased level of anxiety cannot afford. Such an experience helps him to look at himself with new eyes and understand that he has great resources and abilities that are waiting in the wings for development.

event_note December 21, 2020

account_box Winona Tse MD

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