With over a year under our belts dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the impacts that it has caused, many people are struggling to make sense of their emotions. This might be even more true of children, who look toward trusted adults to process feelings and come to terms with their current experience. We know that as adults we are also processing our own emotions as we ride this COVID-19 rollercoaster! In a recent Facebook Live Wee Watch discussed the impact of COVID-19 on children with infant and child mental health expert, Dr. Nikki Martyn. Currently doing research that explores how children are experiencing the pandemic through art, Dr. Martyn shared her findings and some tips to help parents help their children express themselves.

Art in all its forms can be a window in to the experience of your child. Dr. Martyn suggests that parents and caregivers can support young people to explore their feelings through art and provides some guidelines:

  • Focus on your relationship – children need to feel supported and safe to relax and let their creativity guide them. Create a sense of security by telling them that you are listening and seeing, if they want to show or tell you anything about their art
  • Ask questions – offer children prompts that can jump start their creative process and help them engage with their emotions. For example: What does your world feel like or look like today? What would you want for the world or your family? What does the pandemic feel like? What would you like to change about the pandemic? What will you look or feel like in the future?
  • Let them be creative! Ensure your child takes whatever path they want when creating art – there is no wrong way to create. The goal is the expression not perfection.

Art is a wonderful way to boost a child’s mood, help them express their feelings and build confidence! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Encourage young people to paint how music makes them feel – play songs without lyrics to help them connect with the music on a feeling rather than thinking level.
  • Make hand prints and write one feeling, strength or hope on each of the fingertips.
  • Create a feelings inventory – ask them to draw, decorate or paint a container for their feelings (i.e. a picture of a house, a shoebox) and fill it with images or objects that represent how they feel.
  • Dance! Play different musical styles and have the children express how the music makes them feel through movement and dance.

Expression of ones emotions through art is a wonderful way to boost moods, start conversations, express emotions, relax and have fun…all things we need these days.