Help reduce anxiety in kids during the back-to-school season through these fun art projects.
Many kids experience back-to-school anxiety.
Different feelings can come up for kids during this time and it’s important to introduce and practice coping skills — such as art. This will allow them to look at their feelings outside of themselves.
Creating art can reduce stress they may be experiencing and can help improve their mood. Art allows an individual to creatively express what they are feeling that words can’t explain.
One fun way to prepare for returning to school and boosting the positivity may include back-to-school crafts, such as decorating school items and making an art box or art journal to use all year. Kids can also make creative bookmarks, decorate folders or binders, or even put fun patches on a backpack.
For the younger kids, a creative coping activity can include making puppets or drawing a “worry monster.” You can place colored drawings on sticks so that kids can act out and play with them. Both activities allow kids to express back-to-school scenarios or fears and talk about what might be bothering them. Validate your child’s feelings by letting them know that everyone experiences these feelings sometimes — which in turn will remind them that it is OK and that we all struggle sometimes. Always remember to incorporate and model for your child deep, calming breathing techniques.
To paint their feelings, start by having them close their eyes and take deep breaths — soothing music might help — and have them focus on what shapes and colors come up for each feeling. They can then create a lovely expressive abstract painting or mandala.
Another crafty project they can create is making a dreamcatcher. It is believed to radiate positive energy and eliminate the bad. All the negative thoughts and energy gets stuck in the dreamcatcher web and only positive ones get through.
One activity that is great for both parent and child, especially in tough moments, is to remind yourself of positive affirmations. Thinking of a meaningful phrase or affirmation — and incorporating it into artwork — can help redirect thoughts, shift focus and become a colorful, inspiring reminder.
By being there, supporting and listening to your kids’ feelings when they are stressed or anxious about the upcoming school year — while not trying to fix the situation — it allows them the space to process their feelings without judgment. And in this case, creating with them and encouraging healthy expressive and fun self-care coping skills, provide a healthy distraction and a way to manage back-to-school stress.
Creating art is positive, productive, mindful and inspiring, which in turn helps kids forget about worries for a while, feel more mindful and quiet the mind. It is also a great form of self-care for kids as having such a coping mechanism allows them to feel more balanced and allows a mental and emotional break.
A wonderful thing to do before school is to go out into nature. Countless studies have shown that being in nature helps us feel happier and calmer — just like art. Connecting with nature and being inspired by it is a healthy way to manage tension. Nature’s beauty tends to spark creativity in kids through its colors, textures, patterns, light, creatures, etc.
Several art projects can develop through nature — a nature collage (using elements found in nature), a fairy garden (creative and crafty nature garden art), a nature mandala, or you can simply draw, sketch, paint what is around you. Incorporate an art journal that kids can decorate to use all school year.
In the end, creating art increases confidence and self-esteem, which can be a great positive boost for kids before walking back into a school and classroom of peers they haven’t seen all summer — especially when they are growing and nervous about seeing old friends.
Diana Shabtai, Psy.D., ATR-BC, (“Miss Dee”) created Art Therapy OC in 2012 as an inspirational place to explore the world of art and all its therapeutic benefits.
By Diana Shabtai