a Happier Child
Creative projects enable a child with ADHD
to see his good qualities, inside and out.
BY TRACEY BROMLEY GOODWIN, M.ED., AND HOLLY OBERACKER, ATR, LMHC
A CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM IS ALWAYS a top concern for parents, espe- cially if their son or daughter has
ADHD. 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 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 immedi-
> 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,
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.
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 need-
ed: a mirror with a frame, popsicle
sticks, permanent markers, glue gun.)
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 mark-
er. Then glue the sticks
around the mirror. The goal
is for the child to see remind-
ers of his best qualities when he
looks at himself in the mirror. A
TRACEY BROMLEY GOODWIN, M.ED., and
HOLLY OBERACKER, ATR, LMHC, are the
authors of Navigating ADHD: Your Guide to
the Flip Side of ADHD (Copyright 2011; Author-House), a solutions-based guide to living with
ADHD, and ADHD ARTGuides, five how-to guides
for bringing art into ADHD treatment.
GROWING UP WITH ADHD: THE EARLY YEARS
How art therapy