We are hearing increasingly in the news that children’s mental health is being severely impacted by Covid19 and all the changes that have been occurring through the pandemic. The Pharmaceutical Journal highlights how prescriptions for anti-depressant medication for those under 18 years have risen since the pandemic began and in particular, our young people are suffering from anxiety born out of uncertainty for the future, this is manifesting through self destructive behaviours as means of coping. Anxiety issues are increasing and as a consequence there has been a rise in eating disorders as well as self-harm.
It is important that we keep talking to our young people about what is going on for them. Unfortunately though, as you may have found, sometimes words are not enough - it can be hard for all of us to explain what our feelings are at times. If this is the case, art can be a means to open up dialogue. For example, you could ask ‘What song best describes your mood right now?’ or ‘Can you paint what your (angry, sad, worried, etc…) feeling looks like’, or ‘If you were a character in a movie, who would you be today? Which one is most like you?’.
Once you have the response, if there is one, you can meet this with curiosity; How does the song they’ve chosen sound through their ears? What is the song actually about - could they explain the lyrics to you, or could you look them up, what is the meaning for them? If they create a painting or picture, try not to describe what you see, instead ask them - why did you choose that colour? Who/What is that in the image? What would your painting say if it could come alive?
After curiosity, comes empathy; try to really get what it is they are feeling, how it is for them.
This is how we begin to heal, when we feel fully ‘got'.
If they responded with ‘don’t know’ or have no response to their art/music, perhaps you could paint a picture for them or play a song in return that guesses into what my be going on. They may not dig your response, but they might appreciate the effort (even if they don’t show it!).
Art is a really powerful means to communicate and just the power of creating something can tune the mind and bring some peace, or not, as it may be, but it will allow some of the feelings out and enable them to become less powerful in the process.
To find out more about how to use art and creativity with your children or teenagers call me for a chat - I can offer one-off support sessions for parents and carers without working the the child directly.
If this sounds like something that might be helpful and you would like to find out more, please get in touch with Victoria either via telephone: 07867 433 558 or email: [email protected].
I am a child psychotherapist (UKCP Registered); a counsellor; arts and play therapist, covering Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. You can contact me here.