Coloring Is a Powerful Tool to Help Children Deal with Their Emotions March 22 2016

I have always loved coloring and can remember thinking in Art School that I was in love with my art supplies. Coloring however, is not just about arranging some colors on a page to make a pretty picture. Coloring can have the power to help us deal with many of our complex positive and negative emotions. For children especially, expressing themselves in art can be an accessible solution for them to communicate something that is difficult talk about.

I have a love hate relationship with Television and movies. Although I gain a few stolen blissful moments of peace while my children are being entertained by Disney, often when the show is over I am faced with some interesting and sometimes confusing emotional behavior.

After watching a movie with my children one afternoon, my 4 year old son came up to me and started telling me to “go away”. He didn’t say it once or twice but kept repeating it, very emphatically. Staring at him in confusion and disbelief I did the only thing I could think of, which was to say “Stop” in the most authoritative voice I could muster up.

His reaction was to start to cry and run to his room, slamming the door. Realising that my behavior in no way solved the issue, I gave myself a few moments to collect my thoughts and went to see if I could figure out  why I needed to “go away”, especially after spending what seemed like enjoyable family time watching a movie with my children.

When I entered his room he started afresh saying “go away” to me. However when I tried to leave he obviously didn’t want me to. All my questions about “why” he wanted me to go away, no matter how I phrased it, were answered by telling me to “go away”.

I suddenly remembered reading about art therapy and how it can help children express what they are feeling. I quickly grabbed our collection of Crayon Rocks and some paper and put them beside my son and asked him if he could draw for me how he felt. He went at it with gusto and enthusiasm for what seemed like forever.

After he finished I told him how much I liked his drawing. He said it was a scary monster, to scare the bad mom away. The bad mom I thought... then, it occurred to me that there was a very scary mom in in the movie and her son was told to “go away.” I asked my son if he was trying to scare the bad mom away in the movie. His nodding head signaled his answer of yes. He then climbed up in the safety of my lap, clutched onto me and started to cry.

 The mystery of my son’s confusing emotional behavior was solved. Coloring provided the necessary platform to help him properly express his emotions in a way he could. The colors he chose and what he drew were communicating what he was feeling in a way far more expressive and beneficial than words.

We talked about his drawing for quite awhile. What it meant to him and how it helped him not to be afraid. I have no doubt in my mind that creating the scary monster was helping and healing for him. I can still see it up on the wall where he taped it, in case he needs it.

Draw, Write, Smile

Nadine