Creative Expression: A Source of Solace and StrengthShare
In a world where violence, hate, and derision seem too common, we—and our children—seek comfort, and a way forward. There are no easy answers. But here are some approaches that may help kids.
There are times in life when individually and/or collectively the weight of the world seems inordinately heavy—when fear, sorrow, or disillusionment take root. We all handle these times in different ways. For example, some people turn inward and reflect deeply; others reach out to friends, family, clergy, or professional counsellors for support and guidance; still others find ways to improve tough situations or circumstances by taking on leadership roles, gathering forces, or working proactively toward change.
What do children do?
Firstly, they may need help and encouragement in order to identify, and deal effectively with their emotions.
They may also require adults to help them address their concerns.
And, of course, they, too, can reflect, garner support from significant others, and become leaders and agents for positive change.
All of that is good.
Yet, there’s another avenue for children (and adults) to explore when life becomes overly challenging. They can consider how to use creativity to help them get through dark moments or turbulent times. It’s possible to tap the passions that other people have shared—their wise words, musicality, poetic perspectives, and more. It’s also possible to create for oneself a way forward, through introspective writing, musical or artistic composition, or alternative forms of creative expression.
When I am sad, or in need of time and space to process events or emotions, I sit and write. In fact, I am doing that now because it has been a particularly difficult week, and I find that writing helps to ease my soul, and gives me a sense of calm and purpose. Hence this article.
Here are 6 ideas to help children deal with difficult times and navigate circumstances in ways that enable them to harness their passions and, hopefully, feel better. Each point below requires kids to think about questions (and then act).
1. Think—what do you like to do? What makes you feel happy? Painting? Dancing? Singing? Reading? Playing a game with friends? Any and all of these provide outlets and opportunities to engage in creative activities, and to take a break from negativity.
2. Think—who gives you comfort? Are there people with whom you can talk? Share your ideas or collaborate? Hug? Or just sit next to, knowing that they’re there when you want to chat… (Or even if you don’t…)
3. Think—what gives you strength? Rest? Exercise? Advice? Prayer? A walk in the park? Meditation? Nourishment? Counting your blessings? A bit of humor? A way to vent and safely release troublesome or adverse emotions?
4. Think—what, if anything, can you change? Is there a new, more upbeat, or constructive way of looking at a situation? Is there some means of putting or pulling together an approach for making things more acceptable? Safer? Attainable? Collegial? Pleasant?
5. Think—when can you start to improve the status quo? Why not now? You are just one step away from beginning to make things better for yourself—and possibly others—so what will that one step be?
6. Think—how can others help you? If indeed, the pen is mighty, music buoys the heart, and art stimulates joy and meaningful thought, then why not tap and take advantage of the many uplifting possibilities? Who can help you find and benefit from these kinds of enriching experiences? Moreover, who can you enlist to inspire you to pursue your own passions, to encourage you to express yourself in meaningful ways, and to help you forge ahead?
In an article entitled, “Can Creativity Help Children Get Through Challenge?” I explain why creative energy has the potential to be a great source of strength. For example, children can build on knowledge, take innovative approaches to problem solving, and discover positive outcomes and resolutions. However, it’s important for parents and teachers to help children cope with both magnitude and manageability (relating to the extent and complexity of situations); maintain consistency and routines for stability during difficult times; and use interludes of quiet and stillness as wellsprings for both purposefulness and creativity.
Aristotle said, “It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.” We can endeavor to do this, and to encourage children to do likewise—and show them how to embrace their creativity, resilience, and optimism.
In memory of Joyce Fienberg. She enjoyed researching how children learn, especially in creativity-laden venues such as galleries and museums. Her inherent goodness will continue to inspire me to look past shadows and see the light.
Resources and References
To learn more about aspects of child development, and to acquire accessibility to Dr. Foster’s books—and to a wide range of articles and links—go to www.joannefoster.ca. Information about speaker sessions can also be found at this website.
For excellent resources on supporting and encouraging children’s optimal development, see the assortment of material published by Great Potential Press.
The website www.facinghistory.org is a U.S.-based site that offers resources for those seeking to support children who may be struggling with troubling events or witih issues having to do with ethics, justice, or social responsibility. Click here for an article focusing on the synagogue attack in Pittsburgh.
Two parenting authors who write extensively about how to help children deal with fears and uncertainty are Sarah Chana Radcliffe and Dan Peters. You can check out their books and blogs by visiting their respective websites.
Click here for an article about practical ways to help children cope. The piece, published a while ago by SENG, has circulated broadly over time, and still resonates for parents. SENG's full library can be found on their resources pages, accessible online.