As humans, we move for many reasons, whether out of a need for self-expression, pleasure, connection to the community, habit, or ritual. When the idea of dance movement therapy emerged in the 1940s, it was practised primarily in psychiatric hospitals. However, in the 1950s, as a result of the natural integration of dance with self-expression, former choreographers and dancers began to practise dance movement therapy in their private studios.
Later, dance movement therapy proved to be helpful for many children through its creative nature. This non-verbal approach is useful for children who find it difficult to cope with their emotions.
How can dance movement therapy help children manage their emotions?
Non-verbal communication is the first type of communication that we experience. It is important for young children to understand that it is possible to convey a message both verbally and with their own body. Studying dance and movement can help your child develop an understanding of their own body language as well as that of others. This understanding, as well as processing information from the body and their emotions, can help children cope with life’s challenges.
Here’s how dance movement therapy can help manage your (child’s) emotions:
Ensuring a release of emotional tension: movement games and creative dance are the main means of interaction, giving children the opportunity to express what they feel. Dance therapists are specially trained to offer creative movement interventions adapted to the developmental needs of each child while providing a safe space to express their emotions in a creative way, without being judged.
Increasing body awareness: Children who participate in dance movement therapy learn to be aware of their body parts and understand their interconnection. The child therefore learns to control and coordinate his movements much better. This awareness also helps children learn to recognize and understand how emotions are reflected in the body.
Offering a new way of coping: Not all children are able to stay calm and get involved in class activities. Many children feel the need to move. Just as painting, drawing, listening to music, and other such activities can help children cope with emotions, so can dancing and movement. Through dance therapy methods, children not only get to move and increase their self-esteem, but also learn to use movement and dance to cope with these challenges. Children can practise movement-based coping strategies in the therapy session and learn through repeated experience how dancing and movement can help improve their emotional well-being.
Therapeutic dance as an alternative to verbal expression of feelings. The processing of feelings, events and experiences will be done through a creative process that involves both movement and verbal discussion. The children can thus create and experience, directly or indirectly, through metaphor and play the circumstances of events that have happened in their lives.
As a psychotherapeutic tool, dance highlights the connection between body and mind and the ability to influence emotions by changing postures and body movements. Sensations, perceptions and thinking affect the body and the way we move. By observing the body and the quality of the movements, a dance therapist can discern certain states a child is going through and can help release repressed emotional blockages, encouraging, among other things, spontaneity and creativity.
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