How Kids with Cancer May Benefit from Art Therapy

Art therapy allows for a freedom of expression that can be just what the doctor ordered for children living with cancer and undergoing treatment. In one study involving children with leukemia, parents said art therapy made it easier for them to manage bone marrow aspiration and other painful procedures. Now, here's a closer look at how kids with cancer may benefit from art therapy.

Expressing Buried Emotions

Cancer isn't a normal part of childhood, nor should it be. For this reason, kids, particularly younger ones, often have a hard time expressing their feelings about this disease and related treatments. Art therapy allows them to share their emotions in a way that doesn't require verbalization. Plus, whatever a child creates can be used to spark conversations in a way that's appropriate for a child’s level of understanding and comprehension.

Coping with Fears and Anxieties

Children with cancer sometimes feel as if they have no outlet for their fears and anxieties. But with art therapy they can use their imagination to visualize what's worrying them. If a child is exhibiting other signs of stress and anxiety, their drawings may also be used to figure out what specifically about their disease or treatment is causing them to worry. This information may then be used to recommend appropriate coping techniques.

Increasing Self Confidence

Art therapy does more than just let a child express unpleasant feeling or concerns. Therapeutic forms of art can also be used to give children hope. For instance, a child unable to participate in sports because of their cancer may draw themselves slam-dunking basketballs, running up big hills, hitting home runs, or even climbing a tall mountain or soaring through the clouds. Artwork can also be used to allow a child to create their own fantasy world, or just draw positive images that make them feel better.

Creating Positive Distractions

For times when a child is going through treatments with unpleasant side effects or experiencing an uptick in pain, art therapy can allow them to focus on something positive that keeps their mind preoccupied. Also, children are sometimes asked to draw what their pain feels like to help doctors get a better idea of how they are experiencing discomfort, which may allow appropriate treatment adjustments to be made.

What's also great about art therapy for cancer patients is that kids don't need to have artistic skills to participate. There are no rules or judgments. Children are free to express their feelings in any way they desire. Younger kids may do this with crayons and paper while older children might prefer to use a canvas or drawing software, or they may even try their hand at sculpting or other forms of artistic expression.

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