You won't see the child come to his teacher and say, "my family is violent, and I am terrified." But what if he could?
So what in the world is an artist doing blogging about emotions and kids?
For years I have used my art to address pressing social issues. Addressing domestic violence and its long term effects on children was the first because I lived the experience. Viewers of that series asked me about hope - what can help a child in this situation? View the series here.
My answer then was simply "knowing that the problem exists and the damage it does."
To further address the topic of hope, I have created a second series on Social Emotional Literacy. I thought long and hard about what I wished I had available to me when I was young.
And I have discussed this with dozens of other child domestic violence survivors who are now adults. What if someone intervened, they say. But no one did. They thought we would get over the experience. I call this the "Myth of Childhood Resiliency." But none of us spoke up. Why?
I was never threatened not to speak. The bottom line was I didn't know how I felt or how bad it was. I was primarily witnessing violence. I would not have known what to say. To me, to my sibling, this situation was "normal." But what if that wasn't the case? What if I knew what I felt, and knew this behavior was out of bounds?
Adults frequently look the other way - and they do it still - because they believe children are " resilient," that is, they believe that children get over these incredibly disruptive developmental experiences.
The kids aren't saying they are upset, are they?
Kids don't say they are upset because they cannot yet make the connection about what is happening to them and how they feel. I say, and I promote with this series: let's give them the chance.
Children don't speak up because emotional recognition and labeling is learned. If we offer them the opportunity to learn about their own emotions early on, perhaps at school, they will be able to potentially understand and convey their upset to others. Most of the time kids act it out that pain upon others or upon themselves. You see the quiet daydreamer, the bully on the playground, the poor performer in school. Later you see the one who has relationship problems, mental health issues.
You won't hear the child come to his teacher and say, "my family is violent, and I am terrified."
The StoryBook art series conveys to both children and adults that all our emotions are part of an "ecosystem." And that Social Emotional Learning Programs are essential for at-risk youth because they are the ones least likely to learn these skills at home.
In this ecosystem, no emotion is bad, all are essential to living and communicating in the world. We don't push any one emotion out, even sadness or anger - that throws off the balance. Without those emotions, no one would fight for justice or grieve a loss. No one could escape a dysfunctional situation without anger or sadness if we encourage them to think "happy thoughts" and accept "what is,"that their parents or caretakers "don't mean it."
A well-informed understanding of our emotions allows us to understand ourselves, understand others and make better informed decisions.
It is my hope that SEL (social emotional learning) can assist at-risk children by offering them the tools to make the healthiest decisions possible when they are suffering emotionally - perhaps they will ask for help and receive it, for themselves and their families.
That is why this artist is blogging and painting about SEL.
#SEL #childrenanddomesticviolence #artforjustice #conceptualart #artandactivism #at-riskyouth