Why art is so helpful for children with anxiety and creating art therapy at home.
Several years ago, my youngest son began experiencing significant anxiety.
Sleep issues, separation anxiety and even panic attacks became part of our every day.
We saw a therapist. We saw a psychiatrist. Both encouraged me that they would be able to help him. Both said they had just the thing to help.
“Medication and cognitive behavioral therapy together is exactly what he needs, ” I was told.
Six months later, neither really worked.
Moreover, the longer we continued with this approach, the worse his anxiety became. He developed anxiety around the therapy itself, and everything associated with it.
Worse yet, when the typical treatment did not seem to be making a dent, the tone changed.
Instead of discussing different options, I was told that the doctor wasn’t sure he could help my son because he was homeschooled, because I was so involved in his care, and because maybe I was the one getting in the way of his recovery.
There seems to be a somewhat black and white approach to treating children with anxiety. This approach usually includes cognitive behavioral therapy and possible medication.
When it’s not working, my experience has been that parents are blamed for “enabling” certain anxious behaviors and even increasing their child’s anxiety because of their own fears. (I should write an entire post about this sad reality for many of us, but for now, I will just say this – Even if we are 100% the cause of our children’s anxiety, blame and shame is probably not the best way to provide support and intervention.)
After doing a little research, I was surprised to learn that there is no real evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy really works for young children. It certainly is worth trying, and can lay the groundwork for future therapeutic work when the child is older and more capable, but it is not the only way.
I thought to myself, “Why not try a different approach if it’s not working?”
We added equine therapy the following week.
When that increased my son’s allergies, we stumbled into art therapy. Suddenly, things began to click.
What Is Art Therapy?
Art therapy is a mental health profession in which clients use art
media, the creative process, and the resulting artwork to explore their feelings, reconcile
emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills,
improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.
A goal in art therapy is to
improve or restore a client’s functioning and his or her sense of personal well-being.
When my son first began art therapy, it was with a trained therapist. Working with art kept his hands busy and better allowed him to express his feelings of dread and fear, without feeling overwhelmed with the anxiety itself.
As he grew older, and also began to feel better, we transitioned to providing art therapy at home.
Does Art Therapy Really Work For Children With Anxiety?
In my experience, the answer is a resounding yes.
Here’s why –
The goals of any children’s therapy focused on anxiety are typically very similar.
Finding Personalized Coping Strategies
Addressing Sensory Needs Contributing to the Anxiety
Becoming More and More Comfortable with “Talk Therapy”
These goals are all an element of what art therapy is designed to address.
The more my son began to immerse himself in an art project, the more he began to talk about his anxiety and how to cope in stressful situations. Moreover, the art itself helped give him a sense of calm.
Please know, although You Are An Artist gifted me access to their lessons, I was not paid for my time in writing this post. I am sharing this with you because we love it!
Art Therapy At Home
Having experienced these benefits first hand, we have started to incorporate more and more art into our days. Because art is so helpful for my child with anxiety, I have been looking for various ways to incorporate it into our days.
I have found You Are An Artist Video Art Lessons to be ideal in helping achieve this type of therapeutic approach at home.
Nana teaches with a soothing and encouraging perspective. She gently guides the learner through the project and always speaks to the importance of allowing mistakes to be a part of the process (something my anxious child needs to keep going).
Because she teaches using chalk pastels, I find this type of art to be so much less stressful for my anxious child. This medium is much more forgiving and allows for a little bit of fine motor weakness, while still ending up with a great drawing of a bird!
These video lessons have been an easy and cost-effective way for us to continue the progress my son made in art therapy at home.
Art Is So Helpful For Children With Anxiety
Want to join us for a little art therapy this summer?
We will be completing The Baby Animals Art Lessons this summer. (Because Baby Animals!)
You can try the Baby Lamb lesson for FREE here on the You Are An Artist site.
I will be posting our progress on Instagram regularly, and I would love to see your creations as well!
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.