Sports & Activities

The Art of Happiness — and Self-Esteem

Art projects — like these creative suggestions — enable a child with ADHD to see her strengths in a world that too often criticizes.

Art supplies used by a child with ADHD

A child’s self-esteem is always a top concern for parents, especially if their son or daughter has attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD). A child diagnosed with attention deficit is told what to do, and is corrected when he doesn’t do it right, from the moment he wakes up until he goes to bed. Even when the rebuff is gentle, the child learns that he doesn’t measure up. Day after day, this takes its toll.

Various activities boost a child’s feeling of worth, bringing out his strengths and positive attributes. The one that works best, we think, is an art project. A child, with or without ADHD, does art according to her creative abilities — regardless of her learning style, and there are no boundaries. Art is a welcome vacation from being constantly reprimanded at home and school.

  • Using the hands to build or create allows the brain to focus on immediate goals.
  • Art is a nonverbal communication between the parent, coach or therapist, and child. Some things are easier to explain through an art project, rather than in words.
  • A parent builds self-esteem by giving honest praise for the child’s accomplishment. Maybe the artwork is beautiful. Maybe it was constructed in a unique way. Maybe the child flashed a beautiful smile while he created it.
  • Art pieces can measure growth and achievement. The child can collect pieces in a binder or photo album, and see the progress she has made over time.

Here are two art projects you might want to try with your child to increase his or her self-esteem:

Vision Board: Setting Goals and Attaining Them

The object is to create a visual representation of goals, immediate and long-term. The board reminds the child every day that his goals are worthwhile and attainable. (Materials needed: heavy poster board or painting canvas, glue, construction paper, magazines, photographs, scrap paper.)

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Begin by asking the child what her personal goals are. They may include wanting more friends, scoring a goal in lacrosse, beating a video game. The point of the project is to help the child visually express her hopes and dreams.

Explain to the child that what she puts on her vision board may change over time, and that is OK. Place all the materials on the table and get started, having your child write down her goals on construction paper or cut out photos or illustrations that picture them. Give your child time to think about it.

More than one session will probably be necessary to complete the Vision Board. Take a photo of the board, and come back to it later to see the goals represented. As you work with your child, talk about strategies for reaching her goals.

Positive Reflection: Seeing Strengths

The object is to create a visual reminder of a child’s positive qualities. Because the ADHD brain likes to do more than one thing at once, reading the good traits aloud while looking in the mirror reinforces the positives. (Materials needed: a mirror with a frame, popsicle sticks, permanent markers, glue gun.)

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Talk about the positive qualities and characteristics you see in your child. These should be a mix of personality traits and physical traits. The goal is to help the child see that people have beauty inside and out. Ask him to share his own ideas. Discuss the beauty within him, and remind him of how unfair we can be to ourselves if we don’t like the way we look. Help the child see that he would never be as critical of his loved one as he is of himself.

Ask him to write a good trait on each of the popsicle sticks in permanent marker. Then glue the sticks around the mirror. The goal is for the child to see reminders of his best qualities when he looks at himself in the mirror.

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