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SIBLING SUPPORT: Unmasking the Power of Self-Expression

The little children and teens that Friends of Karen Sibling Support Program professionals work with are carrying some big feelings. How can they not? They are experiencing unimaginable stress, change and worry. Those feelings are hard to talk about, but Friends of Karen’s four licensed creative arts therapists and child life specialists know from experience feelings will only grow if kept inside.

Art is a natural mode of communication for children when words may not be there or may not seem enough. If asked directly “What are you feeling inside?” a child or teen will likely respond “I don’t know” or a similarly short answer leading to a dead end in the conversation. Give the same child some paints, a paper mask and maybe some emoji stickers and you can watch what they learn about themselves and their thoughts and emotions as they make art.


Spanning centuries and continents, throughout art history, masks have been powerful tools for expression that are functional, metaphorical and fun. Friends of Karen professionals help ill children and their siblings by facilitating various mask making activities aimed at addressing their unique therapeutic goals.

During one-on-one therapeutic sessions that take place either in person or virtually, children explore the contents of a curated art bag provided by Friends of Karen and often reach for the masks as the material of choice.


Art therapy activities are chosen to match each child’s specific needs. If a child has difficulty expressing themselves and seems to be keeping emotions bottled up, our professionals may guide them in creating an “inside/ outside” mask, showing what they show to the world and what they mask from others and keep inside. They may create a mask of a feeling that seems overpowering to others, a feeling they wish they felt more often, or their alter ego or their “true self.”


Another approach may be to explore a child’s strengths with mask making, to follow the vein of positive psychology and focus on building what is strong as much as fixing what is wrong. The Friends of Karen professional might invite the child to create a mask answering the question “What is your superpower?” or highlight and celebrate character strengths. Mask making can also take the form of a self-portrait for an ego strengthening celebration of their uniqueness and worth in their family and in their world.


Lastly, it is hard for any child to resist the fun and imaginative play that mask making invites. All the incredible children Friends of Karen serves deserve those moments of playfulness tenfold, and our highly skilled Sibling Support Program professionals understand the positive impact of providing opportunities for fun.