When Children Have no Words

How to listen to what children’s behaviors are telling us!

“Either we spend time meeting children’s emotional needs by filling their cup with love or we spend time dealing with the behaviors caused from their unmet needs. Either way we spend the time.” -Pam Leo


I have the privilege to see the world in a child’s eyes each and every day. This is not only because I have two children of my own, but because I work with children who are hurting inside. When a child says “I am not pretty, even though mom says I am, she’s my mom that’s what she’s supposed to say. . .but I must be pretty because my best friend says I am and my best friend would not lie” he or she is hurting inside and needs help. The child may not have the ability to effectively express his or her emotions. Their thoughts and emotions sometimes are invisible or dismissed.  They are not truly being seen by others.   

This is the reason I do what I do.  I work with children to help them have a voice, I focus on hearing the voice that children say no one hears. The goal of expressive therapy is to help them learn ways to express themselves so that they can be heard.

There are so many ways children express their thoughts in sessions, i.e. painting, drawing, Play-Doh, play therapy, clay therapy, music and expressive writing.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Pexels.com

You will be amazed at the art and written form of expression that will come from a child who is hurting.

Even better, when they see it on paper, it’s healing within itself.

Why use expressive arts?

1.  Expressive art therapy provides people with many benefits which include enhancing coping skills, managing stress, and strengthening a sense of self.

When a child is hurting and can’t find the words to express the emotion, art is one way to can take the feelings out of his or her mind and onto paper.

2.   When we are active we become energized through the experience of creating and making.  We are better able to work through things while because we can alleviate stress. The act of coloring allows the child to pick colors that help them best describe their thoughts and mood. Once the child has completed the work, there is a sense of accomplishment which increases self-esteem.

3. Individuals have a life story and they need to be heard. They also have a need to create.

Expressive writing or storytelling allows the language arts to promote inner healing. It also allows the flow of creativity through reminiscing, poetry and writing, as well as other forms of writing like spoke word. When a child writes, the words gradually ease feelings of emotional trauma.

“I black out on everybody in my way because I don’t have a way to let my feelings out,” written by a child who felt sad and angry most of the time.

So how can parents and caregivers help their children?

Listen and notice what children have to say through art, body language, facial expressions and, their actual words.  Children are very honest, even when they may appear not to be. We as adults can help by learning to stop and focus on listing with our ears and eyes. Pay attention to the “nothing is wrong” or “never mind” comments and when they are isolating themselves. Notice if they are drawing or writing stories, as they have found a way to have a voice and release their inner thoughts and feelings.

Nikole R. Jiggetts, LCSW

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