Life can be incredibly challenging for families with kids who are diagnosed with cancer. While medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are essential, they often come with a range of side effects that can be difficult for children to manage physically and emotionally.
Fortunately, there are many tools available to help children with cancer manage these symptoms and improve their well-being. One such tool is art therapy, which has been shown to be effective in reducing anxiety, depression, and pain, and improving the overall quality of life for children struggling with cancer. Mesothelioma Hope recently reached out to IDEA Collective about our crafts kits that aid in child development and happiness, and asked us to explore how art therapy can benefit children with cancer.
And so, in this article, we'll explore scientifically-backed art therapy techniques that have been proven to reduce the emotional and physical burdens of cancer in children. We'll also discuss how art therapy differs from other types of therapy.
WHAT IS ART THERAPY?
Art therapy is a type of therapy that uses arts and crafts activities to help individuals express their emotions and experiences. This therapy can be used for a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and trauma. In the context of cancer care, art therapy is a form of complementary therapy that is used alongside medical treatments to help children manage the emotional and physical side effects of cancer.
One of the key benefits of art therapy is that it provides a non-verbal way for children to communicate their feelings and experiences. Children with cancer may find it challenging to express their emotions verbally, especially if they are experiencing anxiety or depression. By providing a creative outlet for self-expression, art therapy can help children process their feelings in a safe and supportive environment.
HOW DOES ART THERAPY HELP KIDS WITH CANCER?
Here are some specific ways in which art therapy can benefit children with cancer:
One of the primary benefits of art therapy for children with cancer is that it helps them emotionally process their experiences. Cancer can be a traumatic experience for children, and it can be challenging for them to understand and communicate their feelings. By using art materials, children can express their emotions in a way that feels safe and non-threatening.
Studies have shown that children who participate in art therapy are better able to express underlying emotions and develop more effective coping skills. In one study, children with cancer who participated in art therapy reported a decrease in anxiety and depression, as well as an improvement in their overall quality of life.
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can cause a range of physical symptoms, including nausea, pain, and fatigue. Art therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing these symptoms and improving overall well-being. For example, a study of children with cancer found that those who participated in art therapy experienced a significant decrease in pain and anxiety compared to those who did not.
One reason why art therapy can help alleviate physical symptoms is that it provides a distraction from the pain and discomfort of medical treatments. Additionally, art therapy can stimulate the production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, which can help reduce pain and improve mood.
Another benefit of art therapy is that it can improve communication between children with cancer and their families and healthcare providers. Children with cancer may struggle to communicate their feelings and experiences, which can make it challenging for their loved ones to provide the support they need. This is especially useful for children with brain cancer, as it helps them practice cognitive-behavioral skills that their condition may be repressing.
Art therapy provides a visual representation of a child's emotions and experiences, which can help parents and healthcare providers better understand their needs. Art can also be used as a conversation starter, allowing children to share their thoughts and feelings in a safe and supportive environment.
SELF-REGULATION THROUGH MEDITATION
When children participate in art therapy, they are given the opportunity to focus their attention on creating something beautiful and meaningful. As they create, they are encouraged to let go of any thoughts or worries that are weighing on them and simply be in the moment. This process of letting go and focusing on the present can be deeply meditative and calming for children. It can help them to feel more centered and at peace, even in the midst of difficult and painful experiences.
ART THERAPY SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN AS EFFECTIVE CHILD CANCER TREATMENT
There have been many studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of art therapy in helping children with cancer cope with their conditions. These studies have shown that art therapy can help children manage their emotional and physical symptoms, express their emotions, and develop effective coping skills.
One study published in the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing looked at the effects of art therapy on children with cancer who were undergoing chemotherapy. The study found that children who participated in art therapy had significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression than children who did not participate in art therapy. Additionally, the children who participated in art therapy reported an improvement in their overall quality of life through stronger communication and lessened physical symptoms.
Another published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association looked specifically at the use of art therapy for children with cancer-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study found that art therapy was effective in reducing symptoms of PTSD and helping children process their trauma in a safe and supportive environment.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF ART THERAPY FOR CHILDREN WITH CANCER
Art therapy can take many forms, and there are many different activities that can be used to help children with cancer express themselves and process their experiences. Here are 10 specific art therapy activities that have proven to be effective for children with cancer:
Painting or drawing: Using art materials to create images can be an excellent way for children to express their feelings and experiences.
Sculpting: Using their hands to create shapes and objects can be a soothing and calming activity for children, allowing them to focus on the process of creating.
Collage: Creating a collage using images, words, and other materials can help children express their emotions in a more abstract way.
Music therapy: Music therapy can be a powerful tool for children with cancer, helping to reduce anxiety and depression and improve mood.
Writing or journaling: Writing or journaling can be a therapeutic activity for children, allowing them to process their thoughts and emotions.
Creating vision boards: Creating a vision board, a visual representation of goals and dreams, can help children stay focused on positive outcomes and give them a sense of control over their lives.
Group projects: Working on art projects with other children with cancer can be a supportive and empowering experience.
Dance therapy: Dancing can be a fun and uplifting activity for children, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.
Puppetry: Using puppets can be a way for children to explore their feelings and experiences in a more imaginative and playful way.
Photography: Taking photographs and using them to tell a story or express emotions can be a therapeutic activity for children.
Each of these activities can be adapted to the needs and interests of individual children, and can be used to help children cope with a range of physical and emotional symptoms related to cancer. By working with a qualified art therapist, children with cancer can explore these activities in a safe and supportive environment, helping them to manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life.
EASY DIY ART THERAPY ACTIVITIES TO DO AT HOME
For families who are interested in trying art therapy at home, check out IDEA Collective's variety of fun arts and crafts kits for kids that families can enjoy at home. We also have a wonderful blog filled with tons of DIY craft activities that parents can do with their children. By incorporating art therapy into a child's cancer care plan, families can help their children manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.