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Easing Back-to-School Anxiety: Creating Transitional Objects in Family Art Therapy

by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC

The back-to-school season can be both exciting and daunting for children. For those experiencing separation anxiety, this time of change can be particularly challenging. Art therapy offers a wonderful avenue for parents and children to come together and create transitional objects that provide comfort and support during this transition. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of family art therapy and provide ideas for creating these special objects.

Art therapy directives are creative activities or tasks designed to help individuals express themselves and work through emotional or psychological issues. Creating a transitional object with a parent to ease the transition back to school can be a meaningful art therapy directive for a child. Transitional objects serve as sources of comfort and security for children. They provide a tangible and familiar link to a parent or caregiver, which can be especially reassuring when facing new or challenging situations like starting school.

By involving parents and children in the process of creating these objects, it is possible to empower children to cope with separation anxiety more effectively. Collaborative creation of transitional objects enhances the parent-child bond. The process of making transitional objects provides a natural platform for parents and children to engage in open and honest discussions about their feelings, fears, and hopes regarding the upcoming transition. It communicates to the child that their feelings and concerns are acknowledged and validated by their parents.

Here are brief overviews of different examples of transitional objects that can be created with your child:

1. Comforting Collage

Gather magazines, scissors, glue, and a large sheet of paper. Encourage your child to cut out images and words that represent their feelings about school and the transition. You can join in the activity, sharing your own thoughts and experiences as well. Collaborate to create a collage that tells a story of comfort, love, and support.

2. Symbolic Bracelets

Create bracelets using beads, each representing something positive about school or the parent-child relationship. For example, use colorful beads to symbolize joy, a heart bead for love, and a star bead for encouragement. As you string the beads together, talk about these positive aspects and how they can provide comfort.

3. Memory Jars

Decorate small glass jars or containers with paint, markers, or colored paper. You and your child can write down positive affirmations, memories, or comforting messages on small pieces of paper. Place these notes inside the jar, and whenever your child feels anxious, they can read a message from the jar to find reassurance.

4. Painted Stones

Collect smooth stones and acrylic paints. Each family member can choose a stone to paint with colors and symbols that represent their feelings and support for the upcoming school year. These painted stones can be kept in a special pouch or pocket for easy access.

5. Family Art Journal

Start a family art journal where everyone can contribute their thoughts, drawings, and feelings about the school transition. Encourage open communication and the sharing of concerns and hopes. This journal can become a valuable tool for ongoing discussions and reflections.

These transitional objects can help children regulate their emotions and reduce anxiety. When children feel stressed or anxious, holding or interacting with their transitional object can provide a calming effect.

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