Children generally tend to be less verbal regarding their emotional experiences than adults, however, this does not mean that they are less expressive. Children certainly are more open about their emotions when they are physically hurt, sad, disappointed or even angry. For the most part they are more honest and have not yet learned to be political or socially savvy regarding their communication.During counseling sessions it is my experience that children will frequently give short or one word answers regarding events or situations with which they feel uncomfortable. More questioning by the therapist or parents may make them increasingly uncomfortable. With younger children the therapist may encourage the child to become involved in some type of play using puppets or inanimate objects. Art and a variety of creative projects may be used as well.
Older children may be encouraged to use and experiment with a variety of art materials to express themselves and share their inner world as they feel a greater sense of emotional safety in a non-judgmental environment. The involvement in art and the use of art materials can be extremely helpful with children who may have difficulty expressing themselves with language. Art Therapy can be effectively used to help children with ADHD and other disabilities to express themselves in a positive manner. Children with disabilities need to process a variety of emotional experiences which are often stimulated by virtue of having the disability itself. In addition they need to develop coping mechanisms and pro-social behaviors to more effectively deal with disability and the world around them.
Learning to use art for appropriate self expression can help children feel safe and more comfortable with their own emotions. This is only the case, however, if they are not judged for their emotional expressions. Too often parents and teachers become anxious when children express themselves. It is important to understand that a child's emotional expression is only one aspect of the healing power of art and therapy. It is also important to remember that there is a difference between experience and behavior. Self-expression is not a license to be disrespectful to others and structure does need to be implemented by the therapist. As the child becomes increasingly comfortable sharing his or her own experience, the therapist can guide them to solve problems more effective. As children are encouraged to behave in a more effective manner, they become personally empowered and are less likely to act-out impulsively and be hurtful to themselves and others.