Helping Kids Express Their Grief

Art therapy children...

Children just love artwork! They enjoy coloring with crayons, creating creatures with colored pencils, and delight in the feel of poster paints between their fingers. Art is an excellent way to reach kids who are grieving the loss of a significant person from their lives.

One of the first things that mental health professionals do when working with disturbed or traumatized children is to put art supplies in their hands and let them express themselves. How can you utilize this most effective tool with your own children? For a minimal outlay of money and a little effort, you can set up a therapeutic art corner in your home. Then set aside an hour or two, twice weekly, for art sessions with the children, appropriate to their age level.

Art Therapy Children Supplies:
Colored pencils
Set of brightly colored markers
Tempera paints and/or watercolor set
Spiral bound pads of art paper/ sketch pads
Scissors and glue
Old magazines

And for Younger Children:

Finger paint set
Play-Doh set

Therapeutic Art Projects

Art therapy children...

Okay, now what?

Talk to the children for a few minutes about the topic for each project. Each session will have a theme or question the child answers with his artwork. It really is not that important what topic you choose, you can make up subjects appropriate to the situation.

The goal is to get the child talking and expressing his painful emotions. He can choose whatever medium he likes to make his creation: crayons, markers, paint, etc. She could cut pictures out of magazines and create a collage. Your sessions will be much more helpful and productive if you make a project, too.

Some topic ideas you might like to use:

  • I am the most sad when I remember_______________. This is my picture of feeling sad.
  • I sometimes get angry when I think about the death. This is my picture of anger.
  • This is what I think it looks like where (Daddy's) spirit is now.
  • These are the things I liked the most about (deceased).
  • Sometimes I feel lost without (deceased). This picture shows me feeling lost.
  • I get scared when I think of_________________. This picture shows my fear.
  • I used to enjoy doing________________________ with (the deceased). This is us doing it together.

After everyone is finished, you might share and comment on each other's artwork. This can open up some helpful family conversation about the lost loved one and help the children cope with their grief.

Art therapy children...

Give them some mandalas to color!

What's a mandala? It's an intricate or simple design of colorful curved shapes with a prominent center. It originated in the eastern religions, however, is now popular in the modern Western world with psychologists. Coloring or painting mandalas provides comforting rhythmic activity; soothing relaxation and stress relief. It is felt that the beautiful drawings work on the subconscious to make you more centered and calm.

The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as "a representation of the unconscious self," and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.

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Art therapy children...

Many people, adults included, have expressed their deepest inner feelings through painting, drawing and sculpture. There are many other great projects that can help children work through their grief, such as altars, memory boxes to hold precious mementos, and memorial scrapbooks.


Art Therapy Children...

Some type of memorial or ceremony can be an excellent vehicle to help children express their grief fully. (It helps adults, too). Commemoration affirms the value of the lost life; honors the dead loved one. Most children want to help decide how they would like to remember their dear one. It is crucial to attach great importance to the child's need to remember and grieve, and allow them to help in the planning.

There are many ways to create a memorial:

  • Hold a candlelighting ceremony just for the family in which each member lights a candle and tells a story about the loved one.
  • Create a written memorial for  Theirspace, and pick out a favorite picture of the deceased for it. Let the children help write the story.
  • Plant a tree, shrub or rose bush in the cemetery, park, school, or the workplace of the deceased. Or, you may want to plant something meaningful and special in your own yard. Children can help dig, plant and water the memorial planting.

All of these activities provide some degree of comfort and help to prompt questions and spark meaningful verbal expressions of grief among family members.

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