Five ideas to help kids express themselves

Earlier this year, we marked yet another Children’s Mental Health Week, with the theme for this year being “express yourself “. At Buump Active, we are huge advocates of encouraging healthy behaviours that can help with mental wellbeing and, during these challenging times, it has never been more important to talk about our feelings and help each other process them as we navigate this chapter of the Covid19 pandemic.

With that in mind, here are five ideas to help children express themselves – they may help us mums, too…!

Get creative

Being creative and taking part in creative pursuits, even if it’s not their strong suit, can help children to express how they feel without using words – a great skill to nurture, especially if it’s difficult for them to articulate how they feel at this time.

Lockdown has, in many ways, taken away our ability to connect with others on a personal level, but arts, crafts and creative pursuits can help to encourage children to connect again and feel part of something. 

When we draw, paint or make, we take a mental image or an emotion and try to recreate or express it using pens, paints or other materials. This can help children to safely and securely express how they feel.

If you’re looking for direction or some good places to start, why not encourage the kids to draw, paint or make a self portrait, or even draw themselves as a super hero? It can be as real or abstract as you like. When the picture is finished, use it as a platform to ask questions about how the artwork represents the child, and why they have used certain colours, shapes or ideas in the creation, and what their superhero power is and why…

Dance and drama 

Dancing and drama are other areas of the arts that are incredible for processing and expressing feelings. 

In dance, we essentially turn our emotions into movement, and drama can help us to voice some of our feelings safely, while exploring different characters and scenarios. 

Why not have a look at your local drama groups and dance classes and see what they are doing online and via social media? Many groups have pivoted successfully during lockdown and are utilising platforms such as Zoom, Teams and more to teach the classes.  It may provide a fantastic outlet for the kids to channel their energies and express some of the feelings they have been experiencing over this last year.

Talk about feelings

Fostering a culture where children know it’s safe to talk about emotions is so important. Chat openly with the children about how you feel to let them know it’s OK, and try not to shut them down or suppress their feelings, even if they express being scared, worried or even angry. 

Why not go for a family walk and use the opportunity to escape the house and talk about how you’ve been feeling over the last few days? Or encourage the kids to keep a feelings journal, where they write down their worries and other feelings every day?

It’s especially important to talk about worries at this time; children may be concerned by scary news on telly, or be upset about not seeing family members and friends.

Here are some excellent resources to help; we love this Cbeebies site for helping younger children express their emotions, and the NHS has a page on helping children talk about their feelings or anxieties, too.

Provide choices

Allowing children some choices can really help them to express who they are and foster a sense of identity. Why not let them pick their outfit for the day, even if it looks a bit wacky? Other ideas could be to allow them to choose an afternoon activity or walk, choose their hairstyle, choose the family Friday night movie or choose the story before bed?

For older children, let them have some input when it comes to room decoration or extra curricular activities, which will allow them to explore who they are and what they like. Being their own person and having some control over their lives will help them – just like it helps us – especially in these uncertain times.

Encourage connections

Lockdown is tough on everyone, and nurturing our social connections is very important for our mental wellbeing. Allow children the opportunity to talk to others – grandparents, other family members and friends. Sometimes, speaking to other people that aren’t their usual caregivers can help them to open up, and the person in question may be able to give them support and advice from a different perspective.