Like all other human beings, children can suffer from anxiety. However, it is sometimes more difficult for them to express these feelings. Studies show that creative activities can be an excellent remedy against stress and anxiety. What if we gave our children the means to express themselves?
By Marie-Josée Roy
The effects of stress
We all experience fear during our lifetime, whether it be faced with a new experience or an unexpected event. These moments of panic can torment, protect and drive us all at once, but we need to know how to control them. For adults and children alike, anxiety becomes a burden that causes sleepless nights and fear of failure, with negative effects on our physical and mental health. Children are full of imagination, and creative activities can help them channel it. Creativity can help children to express their feelings and become aware of external reality.
Research on the benefits of art
Researchers at Drexel University in the United States studied the link between cortisol – a hormone which, among other things, helps the body to fight stress – and art making. The results of the study showed that 75% of participants had lower cortisol levels after just 45 minutes of using collage materials, modelling clay, and/or markers. Another study conducted by American psychologist James W. Pennebaker has proven the benefits of keeping a journal. Writing down how you feel also has a soothing effect on stress-related hormones. Children experiencing stress tend to withdraw into themselves, making communication difficult. Doing something creative – whether it be painting, writing, cooking, performing, or making music – helps children to express their feelings and overcome certain fears.
Using creativity to combat anxiety in children
Making art stimulates the right side of the brain – linked to creativity, intuition, visualisation and emotions – thus taking the child into a stress-free world. Worry traps the child inside their fear, while creativity sets them free from this harmful prison. Emotions can flow and be expressed in a positive way. The child becomes so absorbed in their art project that all worries are forgotten. This state of well-being results in a slower heart rate, better mood and less anxiety. The child’s imagination, at times a source of stress and fear, is now put to good use.
Accessible art therapy
No need to buy expensive art supplies to get your child’s creative juices flowing. Here are a few ideas to get started:
Encourage your child to start a journal and write down or draw the things that make them happy.
Stock up on magazines that they can use to make collages.
Get them to draw or write things inspired by their favourite films or TV shows.
Introduce them to different kinds of music and encourage them to hum along as much as they like.
Make soup or cookies with your child in the kitchen.
Make decorations for your home together.