When we are being creative, we can be in our most mindful state. This is why using creativity when working therapeutically with children can be extremely effective in promoting positive mental health.
Today, the number of children who are struggling with mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, is the highest it has ever been, and this number is growing rapidly. Now is the time to look at how we can help children to have better mental health, in order to see a decrease in these numbers, and lower the chances of children being diagnosed with mental illnesses. Early intervention is of paramount importance, and we can put interventions into place during everyday life, which support children to express their emotions, explore their thoughts, build on their resilience and develop self-awareness, whether we are parents, teachers, counsellors or any other professional working with children.
One way to incorporate creative therapeutic activity into every day for children is to introduce them to journaling. Journaling has many benefits, including helping children to better cope with difficult experiences, understand different emotions, reduce stress and anxiety, begin to develop self-awareness and set out and achieve goals. I have developed a creative, mindfulness journal for children named ‘Space for my Thought and Feelings’. The journal is designed to offer a safe space for children to explore emotions and thoughts through use of prompts and free flow.
Sand Tray Work
Another way that creativity can be used with children is to carry out Sand Tray Work. This form of therapy is one of my favourites, as it really allows the child to dig deep and bring out the negative emotions, uncomfortable thoughts and difficult experiences that are stored away in the unconscious mind. It is an unstructured process, in which children can be left to make a story in the sand tray, using either wet or dry sand, and a variety of figures. The idea is that the story they create will help reflect on what is going on in their mind, and that by using the sand, they will learn to create their own solutions to problems, thus building resilience and reducing the symptoms of mental health issues. A simple sand tray and a collection of various figures such as people, stones, crystals, buildings and vehicles can work wonders when promoting a child’s positive mental health.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts is one of the most over-looked ways to improve a child’s mental health. Arts and crafts, such as glue and stick, painting or puppet making, really help to supplement many other therapies. Arts and crafts can support children to visually express themselves, learn about the perceptions of themselves and others, build on their imagination and encourage communication. Arts and crafts used therapeutically can help children to self-regulate emotions, make sense of difficult experiences, communicate thoughts, and help children to connect with those around them.
Sometimes children cannot find the words to use, or maybe they cannot communicate verbally. However, by using expression through creativity, their mental health will improve greatly.
About the Author
Shelby Priestley is a trainee counsellor, author and creative youth coach.
She has over 7 years of experience working with children in both the U.K and Sweden. Qualified in a range of therapies, including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Sand Tray Therapy, Journal Therapy, Hypnotherapy for Children and Understanding Children’s Mental Health, she has her own creative therapy business, SP Creative Therapy and Mindful Kids Club.
Her business page can be found at https://www.facebook.com/spcreativetherapyandmindfulkidsclub/
Her creative, mindfulness journal for children can be found on Amazon.