Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Art is more than drawing colours on a page. Being creative empowers children to freely express their emotions in an adaptive way.
I interviewed a School Guidance Counsellor who has over a decade working with children who have experienced trauma and abuse to find out how and why she uses art to help children and to better understand why it is such an important tool to help children express them selves.
Living in a state of mindfulness allows children to lead more happy and productive lives.
Most of us are living ‘above the red line’, our cortisol and adrenaline levels are up. We all know that living in a constant stressed state leads to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, but also pathophysiological responses, such as stroke, heart attack, hair loss etc. Kari explains that 'Mindfulness helps us sit below that red line'. When we sit below that red line, we are able to live in a higher state of wellbeing.
But, how can we encourage our children to be mindful?
Encouraging children be creative are the foundational building blocks to understanding how to practice mindfulness. We know art to be a precursor to verbal communication because it is a basic human instinct to create. Children will enter a state of ‘flow’ when they become engrossed in creating a piece of art. This is why art therapy is often used as a gateway to opening up communication between a therapist and a child who has suffered abuse or trauma.
Kari has observed children’s heart rate and breath rate slows as they reach this state of ‘flow’; “Children can participate in art without fear or judgement” and so art is seen as a safe mode of communication for children in a therapeutic setting. She explained that kids need to process what has happened to them in a non threatening way. Using a creative outlet helps them ‘move through their emotions’. Allowing a child to sit down and draw how they feel gives them a space to ‘just be; to allow the mind to stop racing and exist in the moment’. This leads to the child processing what has happened to them in a safe and productive way.
I couldn’t help but wonder, what happens to this art when the child is finished with it? Kari said ‘that it is up to the child, what happens to the art.’ It is important to empower the child during therapy sessions. This is their expression, so they need to take the lead in what happens with their art, “They might build up a tower of plasticine and then smash it down. Or they might create a drawing of what has happened to them and then scribble all over it. They might tear it up or ask me to hold on to it.” From chatting with Kari I understood, that it is not what happens with the art that is important - What is important, is that children ‘get the emotions out of them, not bottle it up’. When we bottle up our emotions, it will manifest and then be expressed in unhealthy, maladaptive ways, “We want children to find ways to deal with trauma in a way that is appropriate… Internalizing emotions is more harmful.”
As parents, how can we harness this opportunity to allow our children to freely express them selves?
I myself, am a parent, albeit she is 2, she still has emotions (and a lot of them I might add) and so I find myself asking, how can I encourage creativity in the home. I think it is really important that children learn the foundations of drawing at a young age, or, at least have access to creative outlets. We do a lot of painting in our home. However, there are those nights, when I have a million things on and I just don’t have the time to sit down, get the paint out, set it up, then CLEAN it up all the whilst cooking dinner and doing the laundry.
I may be a super mum, but there are limits my friend.
That’s when The Kids Art Project was born. I wanted to create a platform where children could start learning to draw at the foundational level. Starting with the basics: That shapes create pictures. It’s important to make drawing lessons feel accomplishable, but also aspiring for them to achieve.
If you think your child would really benefit to learning how to draw or even just colouring in some different pictures, please click on the link below. I will email you some great FREE material to get your child started on their way to reaching their own state of flow.
If you would like to get in touch with Kari Sutton, you can find her at: www.karisutton.com