Psychologist Shares How Art Therapy Exercise Helped Students Cope After Sandy Hook Shooting

The horrific school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 young students and two of their teachers were killed, is now the second-deadliest elementary school shooting in the United States. It occurred nearly 10 years after the most-deadly school shooting in U.S. history—the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were killed. After yet another mass school shooting, teachers in schools across the country are expected to teach classrooms of frightened and sometimes traumatized children with little to no resources regarding counseling. They also have to figure out what to do, what to say, and how to help children cope. Needless to say, it is a huge undertaking for teachers.

Clinical psychologist Katelyn Campbell, who was working in a Connecticut elementary school at the time of Sandy Hook, recently shared an art therapy exercise that helped comfort her young students, even if only temporarily. She tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared' have something calm to look at.” She explained that kids, just like adults, want to be helpful when they feel helpless. Drawing gave them something active to do; and she says, “The kids ran with it. Many asked to make multiple pictures.”

From a psychological perspective, it was easier to talk about helping “the other kids” feel better. Focusing on helping others took some of the pressure off of the kids, especially those struggling to understand or articulate their own fear. Campbell also pointed out the impact of certain terms being used under such heavy circumstances: “We didn't use the language ‘safe' place because that can be a tough and loaded concept for kids who never feel safe. So we used language around feeling ‘calm' or ‘peaceful.'” Soon, the school was wallpapered with rainbows, flowers, and other happy artwork of places where the kids felt calm, such as the beach and the playground. The drawings remained on the school walls for weeks, and Campbell admits, “I'm pretty sure it helped us adults, too.”

Licensed psychologist Katelyn Campbell worked in a Connecticut elementary school when the Sandy Hook school shooting happened and found a way to help kids cope.

In a now-viral Twitter thread, she explains how she used art therapy to help children cope with their anxiety and fears in the aftermath.

She shares how the language and word choice is very important when talking to children.

Ultimately, the activity helped the kids, but she admits it helped the adults as well.

By sharing her experience, she hopes to help others (especially teachers and parents) to address the horrific events with kids and help them all heal.

h/t: [Upworthy]

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