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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Baker, MA

Helping Children Cope with Divorce through Art Therapy

Each year, approximately 1 million children in the United States experience divorce of their parents. Due to the prevalence of divorce in our country, this shatters a child’s concept of family and spurs a host of reaction from guilt to anxiety and rebellion.

For children, divorce is often a traumatic and life-changing event. In fact, a few studies reveal that children who are coping with the separation and divorce of their parents are experiencing sleeping problems, decreased self-esteem, as well as difficulty concentrating in school work and other activities. Older children often react to divorce with repressed feelings of anger and resentment, which can be manifested as withdrawn or aggressive behavior.

Children of divorced parents need to have some type of therapeutic intervention to help them understand, cope, identify and express their feelings. Art therapy can be very helpful in this situation.

How art therapy can help

Using creative modalities such as art therapy allows a child to express his or her feelings in an age appropriate way. Younger kids may find it difficult to express their feelings verbally.

Unlike traditional therapy, art therapy provides a fun, playful way towards encouraging the child to tell his/her story. It is important for them to know that it’s okay to be honest about how they are feeling and find ways to express and cope with their current situation.

Here, children are asked to draw, paint or create sculptures of their family, their new home and how they felt when things changed. Afterwards, children are encouraged to tell a story based on their work. Through these artworks, the therapist can gain some insight as to the child’s perception about their parents, how they feel about the divorce and their expectations with regards to their current situation. This can help identify any areas that the child may need extra support.

Since art therapy is often done in groups, it helps them overcome feelings of isolation by realizing that there are also other families who are undergoing divorce. The group also focuses on ways to stay connected to their parents so they don’t feel alone.


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