'The times are a changing'. How Art Therapy Can Help Children And Families With Transition Difficulties

Published on March 15, 2014

"When the wind of change blows, some build walls, others build windmills" - Chinese proverb.

"The times are a changing" is a Bob Dylan anthem about change and going through change is an important part of everyone's development.

Do we choose to reject it and build walls around us or do we embrace and use the wind of change such as in the Chinese proverb above.

Going through Transition means a time for change for us all. For a child this can mean starting nursery school and then school. For adults this can be marriage, divorce, having children as well as taking on a new job in a new place. Relocating and moving to a new place can be exciting but leaving behind families and friends can be stressful for children and adults.

‘Life is one big transition.’ Willie Stargell

Children and transition

For children the process of transition is an important part of life’s learning where it can help them develop resilience and adaptability to change. If the change is handled well then this can help them develop confidence while if not handled well the child can feel unconfident and insecure about change.

The move to a new school is a big step up for any child as they will be faced with the unknown in a more structured environment. Expectations will be different and they will naturally be anxious about making new friends.

Research has shown that success in adapting to a new school, both social and academically, can be crucial for future social and academic development. Docke & Perry (2003, 2007) tell us that a positive start to a new school is linked to academic achievement and the development of social skills throughout their school and future career.

While in Clarke & Lay (2005) feel that emotional factors must be more recognised to help children mange the transition to pre-school, primary and secondary school. Children must have an initial positive and encouraging teacher to help them cope with school.

Crucial factors for helping a child

  • A child who has support and caring adults around them will deal with change more effectively
  • A child who is unconfident and withdrawn could feel insecure about change
  • Change brings about a challenge that can help emotional development
  • In order for a child to manage change they must learn to manage their emotions
  • Parent must allow their children space to express their feelings so they can learn to manage their emotions

How Art Therapy can help

Art Therapy provides a creative intervention that is hands on approach for children.

  • Creative approaches and art making can be a more natural way for children to express emotions
  • Art Therapy aids the child to express their hopes and their fears
  • This can help the child to learn healthy coping strategies
  • This can prevent maladaptive behaviour and ensure a smooth transition to school.'

Dockett, S., & Perry, B. (2003). Smoothing the way: What makes a successful school transition programme? Education Links, 6-10.

Dockett, S., & Perry, B. (2007)Transitions to School: Perceptions, Expectations, Experiences. UNSW Press, 2007.

Lay See Yeo, Christine Clarke (2005):  ‘Singapore Starting school—a Singapore story told by children’. National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood. Vol. 30 No. 3, September 2005, pp. 1-9.

Category(s):Academic Issues, Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Art Therapy, Child and/or Adolescent Issues, Child Development

Written by:

Andrew C Wright HCPC registered (UK)

Registered art psychotherapist trained at Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2002. Has over 20 years of experience of working in the health care field.

Andrew is currently based in the UK and works with children, adults/ couples who have difficulties such as attachment, trauma, stress, anxiety and depression.

Andrew C Wright HCPC registered (UK) belongs to Art Therapy International Centre in Singapore

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