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Art Therapy At Home

Encourage Your Kids to Draw During the Pandemic  Quarantine is reminding me how much I love to draw. Last week, I led an Embers on Zoom for campers at our virtual camp Hometown Stomping Ground all about drawing and mark making as a form of expression and therapy. 

On the call I only asked for one thing: that everyone suspend all judgement of their drawings, to refrain from using words like good, bad, ugly or pretty. I asked them to mindfully enjoy the “felt sense” of mark making and to share any feelings, thoughts, or ideas they had while drawing. 

It is no surprise that kids are way better at this than adults. Many adults have lost contact with the therapeutic purpose of art making. Instead, adults often see art as decoration in a home or artifact in a museum. Drawing or mark making for adults or older kids can often be frustrating, intimidating, or even scary. We become consumed by the product and lose track of the process as well as the ability to externally map our interior selves. 

Encouraging your kids to draw during quarantine has potential benefits for them, and for you. Here are three reasons why, and three ideas of how to get started. 

Reason 1: Understand and make sense of inner experiences and emotional change. Before starting camp with Jack, I studied Painting and Drawing at SUNY Purchase. I have always known the mysterious power drawing and mark making has had for me in regulating my emotions and processing experiences.  Studying Social Work at Columbia these past two years have given me a different way to look at art making and drawing through a clinical lense especially when it comes to working with children. 

Art therapist Harriet Wadeson talks about art therapy through the Spatial Matrix, or the ability of art to communicate relationships using shape, color, and line. Art has the ability to contain paradoxical elements and helps people integrate and synthesize conflicting experiences and emotions. 

The coronavirus pandemic has interrupted all of our routines, ruined plans, and jumbled the structures and systems that facilitate our lives. I find myself wrecked between feelings of  frustration, confusion, and anger. It is hard for me to explain my quickly changing emotions or rationally label my own thoughts, feelings, and actions. For kids this is especially confusing. Encouraging drawing helps us to translate feelings and emotions. That leads to my second reason that drawing right now might be helpful for you kids. 

Reason 2: Find healthy ways to communicate.  Art is a powerful and effective form of communication. The sharpness or softness of a scribble, the frantic or smooth quality of a line, the use of color, the position of the drawing on the paper...these are all ways to communicate a feeling or emotion without saying a word. Therapy is a Greek word that means “ to be attentive to”. As a parent or caregiver, being attentive to your child's drawings during the time of coronavirus could be a simple yet effective way to see how they are processing this uncertain and confusing time we are in together. Having children explain their drawings or make meaning from the drawings symbols, colors and shapes gives you a window into their mind in a way that conversation might not. 

Drawings also provide a visual record of thoughts and feelings and can be an important reference when processing experiences later. The permanent quality of art allows you to look back and notice emerging patterns and themes over time.