'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  • A child who is unconfident and withdrawn could feel insecure about change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.

Programs for children at Art Therapy International Centre

Our art therapy workshop programme with children and transition can work towards regulating their emotions and helping them adjust to change. We use creative art activities that help the child to express how they feel. This can help to identify any areas that the child may need extra support. This will decrease the likelihood of a learning dip as the children will be more prepared for the new challenge.

About Art Therapy at Art Therapy International Centre

Art Therapy International Centre was founded in 2010.

Located in Dubai and Singapore, Art Therapy International Centre (ATIC) houses an art and creative studio providing art therapy, play therapy and counselling sessions. They welcome children, adults and couples. They are experienced at dealing with issues such as addictions, anger, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and low self-esteem. They also help people with transition difficulties, learning needs and relationship / marriage problems.

ATIC also organises workshops such as 'An Introduction to Art Therapy', 'Working with Special Needs', 'Children with transition difficulties', 'The Art of Bonding', 'Dealing with Grief', and Open Studio Art Therapy sessions. Our sessions can be catered for indivduals, groups and organisations.

“Creating a difference in people’s lives when words are not enough”


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.


About the Author

Andrew Wright is an art psychotherapist based at Art Therapy International Centre (ATIC) in Dubai and Singapore. ATIC (www.articarttherapy.com) is a professional art therapy practice that works with children adults and couples.
 He has had over 18 years of experience in the health sector. Where he has managed health care services and trained to become a therapist at Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2002.

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

Written by:

Andrew C Wright (AthR), HCPC registered (UK), BAAT (UK).

Registered art psychotherapist trained at Goldsmiths College, University of London in 2002. Has over 19 years of experience of working in the health care field. Art Therapists are trained to masters level and above and only art therapists can conduct art therapy sessions.

Works with children, adults/ couples who have difficulties such as attachment, trauma, stress, anxiety and depression. As well as relocation difficulties and relationship/marriage problems

Is based in Dubai as Co-Founder. Clinical DIrector and Senior Psychotherapist at Art Therapy International Centre (ATIC). The 1ST Art Therapy Centre in Dubai, UAE. A private practice that provides services for the community in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. ATIC also works with government agencies, schools, corporate and NGOs.
Website: www.aticarttherapy.com
Email: andrew@aticarttherapy.com

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

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