School is beginning soon – here in Austin we’ve begun the one week countdown to the first day. For many kids, the beginning of a new school year brings a lot of anxiety. Art therapy for anxiety can be a great way to help kids explore and work through their fears. Here are a few suggestions for art directives to address back to school worries.
1. Superhero and villain drawing – The child can draw the problem or fear as a villain and draw themselves as a superhero. This helps to externalize the problem as something that can be fought. Help them figure out what traits and skills they would need in order to defeat the problem. Think of the sidekicks or other heroes (e.g., parent, teacher, or friend) that they can enlist for help if needed. (If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that I love art to externalize problems or feelings. You can read more here.)
2. Change the story – Have the child draw a picture of what they are worried about (e.g., “What would the worst possible day at school look like?”). You can then talk about the fears and help the child to challenge unhelpful thoughts that are revealed in the picture, using a CBT approach. After exploring and challenging the fears, have the child create a new “story” or picture that reflects more balanced thoughts about school (“Now what do you expect or hope school to be like?”).
3. Visual routine or “what to do” pictures – Some worries are related to kids not knowing what to expect or being unsure about how to handle a situation that might come up. Having a routine for what to expect and a plan for how to handle different problems can make a big difference in alleviating this anxiety. Drawing can help to solidify the plan further. If you’re creating a routine or schedule with the child, have them draw a picture for each step. If addressing a fear about how to handle something, have them draw a picture of themselves successfully managing the situation. You can create a small book if there is more than one worry to plan for.
If you are looking for tips for parents to help their kids with back to school anxiety, you can read my private practice blog post: 15 Tips for Helping Your Child with School Anxiety.
Carolyn Mehlomakulu, LMFT-S, ATR is an art therapist in Austin, TX who works with children, teens, and families. Foe more information about individual therapy, teen and child counseling, family therapy, teen group therapy, and art therapy services, please visit www.therapywithcarolyn.com.
This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any mental health conditions. All directives, interventions, and ideas should be used by qualified individuals within the appropriate bounds of their education, training, and scope of practice. Information presented in this blog does not replace professional training in child and family therapy, art therapy, or play therapy.
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