August 25, 2014

Using Art to Help Children Deal With Fear and Anxiety

 “It got worse by the minute.  It seemed like nothing could stop it.”


I painted this image while listening to news reports of terrorism, wars, and general atrocities I can’t mention here.  I couldn’t help but think about the quote “Evil prevails when good people do nothing”.  I considered how much strength and determination it takes to stand up and do the right thing in the face of fear.   Years ago, The Greatest Generation saved the world by standing up. Today, it seems we don’t have the same fortitude we once did.

I deal with these themes in my latest painting, Crossroads, and I think it makes a wonderful story starter for students to explore the idea of standing up in the face of adversity. Use this image to start a conversation about how your kids feel.


Crossroads visual writing prompt

Crossroads, by Denise M. Cassano



Teachers often use art in their classrooms, but I think parents can benefit from looking at art as well.  Often parents want to talk to their kids about important, yet uncomfortable topics.  Art can be that bridge to start and further a conversation.

Children face the same- maybe even worse- forms of anxiety and fear that adults face.  I say worse because they do not have the life experience to gain perspective on the immediate situation.  A six year old can’t look back to previous experiences to learn from.  He or she must deal with he adversity head on and make decisions as best they can.


Crossroads makes a great writing prompt about fear and decision making because it may be perceived in a variety of ways, and deals with the topic of fear, anxiety, following the crowd, and decision making.

This writing prompt features a somewhat ominous bird in the foreground, with architecture and figures in the distance. Some people moved away and separated themselves from the group, while others run.

Take a careful look at the details, colors and textures.  Use the following questions to help guide your discussion with your children.

  • What colors do you see? How do the colors make you feel?
  • Who lives in the house? Are they there?
  • What is the bird thinking?
  • Why are people running away?
  • There are two people not running away. Who are they and what are they doing?
  • What happens in the next ten minutes?
  • Think of a time when you had to face something that scared you. What did you do?

Art can be used to discuss fear and feelings.  It can also be used to inspire creative writing.  For more information you can read my article on art and creative writing featured on


Would you like a free Story Starter Video and Critical Thinking graphic organizers to use with Crossroads? Click here for these and other Story Starter Videos.


Find more ways to use art as writing prompts with my writing prompt illustrations, and by using Corn Dog Art™ Story Starters Videos. You may also subscribing to the newsletter below.

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