The Worry Monster: Art Therapy for Children
In my last post, I discussed feeling un-grounded and what we can do to help nurture ourselves when that "twirly" feeling happens. If we, as adults, have the capacity to feel "twirly," then what happens to our children? What happens when they can't find the words to describe their "twirly" feelings?
In this next blog, I focus on kiddos who worry and how we, as adults, can help them navigate the shadows of anxiety using art therapy.
Sometimes our children come to us, or other adults, when they are feeling scared or worried about something. They may tell us through trembling bodies, their words, insomnia, emotional instability, and, maybe, even through silence that something just isn’t right in their world.
One way we can have our children confront that fear or worry is to listen whole-heartedly to their story and allow them to be vulnerable.
We can reflect their words back to them and ask them questions about the fear or worry that is consuming them.
We, ourselves, can also become vulnerable with our children and tell them stories about our fears or worries when we were a child.
Letting your child know that they are not alone and that even Mom and Dad had (and have!) fears allows the child to feel safe and understood.
For children who are chronic worriers, though, sometimes those heart-felt talks aren’t enough. Sometimes drawing or creating artwork about that specific fear or worry is needed to get the image or feeling out of their head, outside of their being.
By visualizing the fear or worry as a “being” and then visualizing defeating it, or actually confronting it, can help the child to feel a sense of control over their emotions and the situation.
Throughout time, many children have used a “Monster” as a symbol of their fear or worry and have re-created these Monsters to relieve their distress. Creating a Worry Monster can be helpful in many ways.
Gather up whatever art supplies you have on hand at home and begin the journey with your child. Some details to consider when creating your Worry Monster may be (Thomas, 2009, p.149):
How many heads does the monster have?
Does it fly?
Does it have scales, lumps, bumps, or is the skin smooth?
How big is it?
Can it swim?
How fast can it run?
Does it have a name?
What powers does it have?
By having your child create as many details as possible for the Monster it then takes away they mystery and the fearfulness of the issue. Your child can be as creative as he/she wants with their Monster.
They may draw, paint, scribble, or make a stick figure puppet of it. Or, if your child is having a difficult time coming up with their own monster image you can look at Monster coloring pages on the web to print out and then decorate. Do this activity with your child. You may want to create your own Monster, too. Be there with them as they experience this process.
Then once the Monster is complete, set the picture, sculpture, puppet up on a shelf or wall and have your child stand in front of it. Standing next to your child, encourage them to say powerful statements to the Monster such as: “I am Strong!” “You can’t hurt me!” “Go Away!” “You can’t trick me!” “You don’t scare me!” “I am Powerful!” “I am Safe!” “I Don’t Believe in You!”
After your child is done, have your child decide (or offer assistance if they are unsure) what he/she would like to do with the Monster. Some suggestions are: burying it in the backyard or in a planter, putting it in a special “Good-bye Monster” box, throwing it away, giving it to an adult to put it away, folding it up and putting it in an envelope to send it away, making a paper boat and sending it down the stream/creek, etc. Be as creative as you want! Offer as many ideas to your child until they find the right one to take away their fear or worry.
Creative Coping Skills for Children by Bonnie Thomas (2009)
Go Away, Big Green Monster! By Ed Emberley (1992)