Exploring Family Change

When families change through divorce or separation, giving children an opportunity for expression can be healing for them.

This young artist painted a picture of herself (middle) with her mum, stepdad and her new baby sister, with lots of love hearts all around.

My family


You will need:

A large sheet of paper





Ask the child to paint a picture of how they feel about the changes in their family.

Ask them to place themselves in the picture and to put an expression on their face.

Teaching points:

Prior to painting  looked at different feelings and their meanings.  Use feeling faces to help the child name emotions.  This form of emotional literacy can help build their vocabulary and understanding of emotion.

Use emoji’s to help children identify different emotions.

There are many excellent picture books explaining what happens when families change and help to normalise children’s feelings.

For grief and loss:

Help the child to think about the feeling they have right now.  Provide reassurance there is no right or wrong feeling.  This could be happy or sad, frightened or surprised.

Help the child to reflect on their painting and what it means to them.

Normalise their feelings, assuring the child that other children have had changes in their family and may feel similar feelings to them.

Emoji’s can be placed on a spinning wheel to help the child to identify their feelings each session.  Different faces can assist them when they don’t have the words for their feelings.

According to Van Der Kolk (2014) creative therapies such as art, music and dance have been useful is helping those who have experienced trauma.  Although I acknowledge that divorce and separation may not be considered as trauma, there may be other contributing events such as domestic violence.  Children who have witnessed violence often have anxiety, and problems with their relationships and self esteem.

Links to the Australian Curriculum:

ACPPS020/ Health and Physical Education / Years 1 and 2

Identify and practice emotional responses that account for own and others’ feelings, recognising own emotions and demonstrating positive ways to react in different situations, understanding how a person’s reaction to a situation can affect others’ feelings


Expressing emotions through drawing. K12.thoughtfullearning.com

The Australian Curriculum. https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/

Van Der Kolk, B. (2014), The body keeps the score: brain, mind and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin, New York




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