By Lynn Cukaj, ATR-BC, MHC-LP www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com
Art Therapy for Children, Teenagers and Adults
Young children possess a remarkable ability to live in the present moment, largely due to their limited grasp of time. However, the concepts of waiting and patience are skills that are both learned and developed as they grow. As children mature, they acquire the capacity to project into the future, which can sometimes bring forth worries and anxieties. Anxiety, in essence, can be defined as the act of worrying about the future. Typically, parents start noticing these concerns around the time their child reaches 2nd grade, usually around 7 or 8 years old. It is during this phase that parents may observe certain challenges or areas of difficulty. Consequently, many parents seek therapy as a means of providing support for their child who may be grappling with heightened levels of anxiety. It's important to recognize that anxiety can have a significant impact on various aspects of a child's life, particularly their self-esteem, self-efficacy, and self-confidence. So, how can we effectively address these challenges? What strategies do therapists and parents employ to help children cultivate greater self-esteem?
By offering children the chance to acquire knowledge in mindfulness and empathy, we empower them with invaluable coping skills that will serve them well throughout their lives. An essential aspect of this transformative journey involves the development of emotion regulation. One remarkable avenue for nurturing and cultivating these skills is through the expressive and therapeutic realm of creative arts, with art therapy taking a prominent role.
In my perspective, as parents, our ultimate aim is to equip our children with the tools to effectively self-soothe and express their emotions in a positive manner. Interestingly, even as adults, we often encounter challenges when it comes to identifying and expressing our own feelings. While it is commonly assumed that adults possess superior emotional regulation skills compared to children, real-life scenarios such as enduring a long wait in line, navigating traffic, or serving on a jury reveal that adults are not always adept at modulating their emotions and thoughts. Through my recent experiences working with clients, I have witnessed a range of emotional responses, including annoyance, tears, frustration, compliance, resolution, and calmness, all stemming from situations beyond their control. This observation prompted me to reflect on the factors that elicit these varied reactions in individuals. I firmly believe that a lack of control and a pervasive sense of uncertainty in such shared experiences amplify the degree of stress. This common theme of control and uncertainty often leads individuals to seek therapy. Questions surrounding what aspects can be controlled, what cannot, how to discern the difference, and how to effectively manage the accompanying emotions frequently arise. Life situations, whether they involve everyday stressors linked to work, family, friends, or broader societal issues, or unexpected events such as loss, transitions, or accidents, can profoundly impact our well-being.
One must first find inner peace before embarking on a life worth living.
What valuable lessons can we derive from these experiences to guide us when similar situations arise in the future? It is essential to acknowledge that lack of control and uncertainty are inherent aspects of life's journey, and rather than resisting and denying them, we must embrace and accept them. Although the mere mention of the word "uncertainty" can trigger anxiety, it is an inevitable part of the human experience. Therefore, cultivating mindfulness and nurturing a hopeful mindset that everything will align as it should can serve as a powerful means of bolstering self-esteem and cultivating a profound sense of calmness. This coping strategy proves invaluable when we find ourselves grappling with a sense of helplessness and an overwhelming sea of uncertainty.
The concepts of control and uncertainty frequently emerge as key themes when clients seek therapy. Many express their desire for greater emotional control, seeking answers to questions such as, "What is the meaning of my life?" "How can I truly understand myself?" "Where is my life headed?" "What do I truly desire in life?" "Why do I avoid confronting my emotions?" These inquiries, along with similar ones, hinder clients' ability to fully accept themselves. I have discovered that acceptance is a challenging and often painful journey, yet an essential one when confronting the realms of control and uncertainty. In my recent exploration of Marsha Linehan's memoir, I gleaned the profound insight that one must first find inner peace before embarking on a life worth living. Consequently, much of my work with clients centers around the exploration of attaining this sense of peace. To achieve peace, one must courageously confront and gain insight into their personal struggles with control and uncertainty.
Let's do some Art Therapy!
The following projects entail looking inward to seek answers. As with most Art Therapy directives, the objective is to discover hidden fragments of our past, present, and future selves. Giving ourselves a moment to be present for these activities can provide insights into our core values, invaluable support systems, and effective coping strategies. It can also serve as a catalyst and foster meaningful conversations between parents and their children.
Art Therapy Project: The Inner Peace Tree
Click on this link to download the Inner Peace Tree Printable Worksheet. The goal of this Art Therapy derivative is to be mindful of your present life; acknowledging your skills, gifts, and current challenges. It also lets you think about your future and support system, which can be reassuring when things feel uncertain.
For more therapeutic activities and resources on how to incorporate Art Therapy into your life, read more from Lynn's Creative Expressions Blog.
Learn more about Art Therapy and Lynn Cukaj, Board Certified Art Therapist here: www.CreativeExpressionsConsulting.com