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According to the Hong Kong Cancer Registry’s latest figures, the city saw 34,179 new cancer cases in 2020, meaning over 30,000 families have members struggling with cancer. Cancer affects the entire family. A family member having cancer may cause stress and even lasting traumas to children. Hong Kong Cancer Fund’s “Rainbow Club” helps children aged 5 to 17 who have a family member with cancer or who have lost someone to cancer. “Rainbow Club” is home to a professional team of social workers, art therapists and psychologists who act as a bridge between parents and children and offer emotional aid so children can better understand the changes at home. Art therapy can dive into children’s inner thoughts and relieve their woes and emotional distresses as well as improve their interpersonal relationships. 

On April 23, “Rainbow Club” hosted the “Rainbow Club Art Therapy Experience Day” to spread the power of art therapy.

Children Learn to Express Emotions Rekindle the Parent-Child Relationship 

“Rainbow Club Art Therapy Experience Day” saw sharing by “Rainbow Club” members, like Tik Nga. She shared that she and her son have been active members of the club’s activities such as parent-child art therapy, parent-child relationship enrichment sessions and fun programmes such as tie-dye, painting class and more. Tik Nga illustrated the ways art therapy has helped her son unleash inner emotions and rebuild their relationship. She was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer in 2019 and underwent treatment during the height of the pandemic. To avoid COVID-19-induced fevers, she confined herself to quarantine at home, avoiding contact even with her kindergarten son, who couldn’t understand why tubes were coming out of his mother’s body. Alienated, the frustrated son would express his dislike for his mum by slapping the tubes. 

Tik Nga then sought help from “Rainbow Club”. After initial assessment, her son was put into art therapy. He received a total of 28 individual sessions and 12 group sessions, alongside mother-son workshops. Tik Nga’s son saw great improvements in his emotions after learning to properly express his feelings; he’s now a happy and optimistic boy thanks to new friends at “Rainbow Club”! 

Emotional Journey under the Guidance of Art Therapist

To spread the power of art therapy, “Rainbow Club” art therapist Abbie guided participants to express their feelings and strengthen parent-child communication and relationship through art. Art therapy is a type of psychotherapy where participants use different art mediums to explore their inner self, release negative emotions such as fear, sadness and anxiety, as well as embark on a journey of self-discovery and renewal in a safe environment. 

Abbie said, “Art therapy is suitable for children who do not like to express themselves through words. Through the process of creation, interaction and image understanding, we can gain a better knowledge of their inner thoughts so to help explain their struggles and pain. “Themed” when the body is feeling unwell”, Abbie hosted a puppet-making class with paper, buttons and cloth. The puppet was then used as a medium for children to express their feelings about physical discomfort and a lesson for them to support each other when other family members feel unwell. 

Hazel, a social worker at “Rainbow Club”, said children who continue to undergo art therapy see significant improvements in their mood and relationships. 

“Many patients come to us depressed, struggling with expressing their feelings and thoughts and even exhibiting poor behaviour. Activities like art therapy, games and family counselling can help them express themselves beyond words.”

Hong Kong Cancer Fund recommends that if children are affected by family member(s) struggling with cancer, parents should seek external support in a timely manner to help them regain their positivity and confidence, and face cancer together as a family.