Art and Writing Project: When Mom or Dad Has Cancer

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Art helps kids express feelings. For many children, it’s easier to draw an emotion than label it and talk about it. Certainly this is true for young children who may not know the feelings words yet.

In fact, art therapy is used for grief, loss, learning disabilities, emotional issues, mental disorders, abuse, cancer, and divorce, among other ways.

I’m not an art therapist but when my friend’s husband was diagnosed with cancer and had 2 kids under age 5, I decided to try to use writing and art to help them deal with their feelings. The kids wouldn’t understand the particulars of cancer, or the books I found about cancer, because they were so young.

As a result, I wrote a story about a panda bear named Kai whose dad had cancer – thinking of all the ways I could incorporate the boys’ frustrations and new situation into the story. Then, I had the four-year old help me illustrate it.

Fiction is hard! My story is only sort of decent because two of my dear fiction writing friends gave me some very kind feedback (how hard it must have been!) to make it less awful!! Thank you  P.K. Hallinan and Suzanne Santillan. You are so talented and had your hands full. 🙂

I’m making the story available to you to use with a child who has a parent with cancer for your use only – don’t republish it or sell it please, it’s just for your own use.

Panda’s Dad Gets Sick Printable .doc OR Printable  .pdf

Look what my friend’s son drew. Do you think he expressed his feelings?

Learn more about art therapy for kids with these resources:


Art Therapy Sourcebook
The Creativity Handbook: A Visual Arts Guide for Parents and Teachers
Art Therapy Exercises
Books for Kids on Loss, Grief, and Death


Art Therapy Blog
Top 50 Art Therapy Blogs via Expressive Art

Have you used art as therapy with your children or students?

I wrote this post to celebrate my friend, MamaSmiles, cancer-free 32nd birthday. For a $15 donation to the American Cancer Society, you will receive a Project Hope eBook, a book of hope-themed arts and crafts to make for cancer patients. 

Small Hands Creating Hope Donate to the American Cancer SocietyVisit Mama Smiles.

14 May Mama Smiles
15 May Artsy Craftsy Mom and Rainbows Within Reach
16 May B. Inspired, Mama!
17 May Rainy Day Mum and Imagination Soup
18 May Inspiration Laboratories
19 May Experimenting Mom
20 May Outlaw Mom
21 May NurtureStore
22 May Living Montessori Now
23 May Mess for Less
24 May Having Fun at Home and Craf toArt
25 May Mama Mia’s Heart2Heart
26 May Angelique Felix and Sense of Wonder
27 May Sun Hats & Wellie Boots
28 May Duck Duck Octopus
29 May Smiling like Sunshine
30 May Mommy with Selective Memory
31 May One Perfect Day
1 June The Educators’ Spin On It
2 June Kids Stuff World
3 June Rainy Day Mum
4 June Teach Preschool
5 June Dirt and Boogers
6 June Creative Connections for Kids and The Golden Gleam
7 June Montessori Tidbits
8 June Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas
9 June The Iowa Farmer’s Wife
10 June Scribble Doodle and Draw
11 June Learn with Play
12 June Kitchen Counter Chronicles
13 June CRAYON Freckles
14 June Glittering Muffins
15 June Wise Owl Factory
16 June Crafty Maa
18 June Lessons Learnt Journal
20 June Growing a Jeweled Rose
21 June Growing Play
23 June JDaniel4′s Mom

You Might Also Like . . . 
8 Ways to Support a Mom with Cancer” – an article I wrote for
Shel Silverstein, Great Illustrator Study 

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10 Responses

  1. Oh my god, Melissa. What a wonderful thing you did to create this book. And now to share it with others who need it. I think this might be your calling!

  2. CraftyMaa says:

    Wow! It’s such a sweet story and I couldn’t agree more about art therapy:)

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