Saturday essay I looked at a picture drawn by my child and froze – A parent often misinterprets children’s grim works

World young people have been living in exceptional circumstances for almost a year and a half, and the traces of a pandemic are still visible for a long time.

Now, the mental landscape of young people has begun to be explored with the help of works they have made. In Canada, for example, researchers have collected and interpreted over a hundred works of fine art by young people during the pandemic from schools and social media.

The researchers say the results are clear. The pandemic has clearly put a strain on the minds of the quarantine generation, although individual differences are, of course, significant.

“There is a lot of pain that needs to be able to be detected and shared in order for our youth to become healthy adults,” concludes the professor. Nikki Martyn The result of a study from the University of Guelph-Humber.

In the pictures, anxiety can be seen as screaming faces and the experience of darkness, among other things. Even more obvious are the texts in the pictures, such as “I’m broken,” “This is too much,” and “What’s the point?”

About friends in addition to isolation, young people have been hit by difficult schooling, parental layoffs and dismissals, and the illness, sometimes even death, of loved ones.

Indeed, Canadian experts fear that a pandemic period has increased a young person’s risk of developing depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Thus, the burden on mental health is not over, even if the risk of infection eases.

In Finland pandemic anxiety has been mapped by, among others, the Finnish Federation for Child Welfare. Published on the organization’s website blogin according to the flood of information caused by the corona may have created in the child a feeling that the crisis is everywhere and threatens his family members. Young people are also concerned about the future of the whole world.

Worldwide, the children’s organization Unicef ​​has encouraged young people to make and share art during a pandemic. Voices of Youth campaign produced thousands and thousands of works for all to see around the world from a simultaneous experience.

In many works, young people encourage, comfort, and enlighten each other.

However, the part conveys anxiety.

Myself the topic touched on a couple of weeks ago when my child’s art school closed its doors for the summer. I researched with interest the folder brought by the teenager, which contained the work he had done during the pandemic.

I browsed pencil work, print work, watercolors, oil paintings and wax chalk work. Would they show anything surprising?

At first I did not notice anything that would have caused the pulse to rise. Some of the works were colorful, some were darker in tone, but none of them stood out from the works the child brought home in previous years.

Then my attention was drawn to a small work made with wax crayons and scratching. The picture shows a human figure enclosed in an oval-shaped capsule.

On top of all that, the capsule seems to float in space. That’s about the feeling of isolation, I thought.

One pencil work was also disturbing: it had a woman photographed without eyes.

He does not see the future, I interpreted.

The character in the sketch made by the author’s child has no eyes.

So I guess it goes easily. Ever since I was a child, I have enjoyed colorful and sunny images that have been easy to think of for the well-being of the communicating draftsman, while dark-toned images have made the corners rise.

The happier the picture the better, I thought.

In reality, however, the interpretation is not always so simple.

Doctor Tom Boyce says in his book Orchid or dandelion? (WSOY, 2020), how he and his fellow researchers collected information in 1989 about how stress caused by starting school affects the immune system of California children.

The research team had time to implement one data collection period. Then a devastating earthquake struck the study area, killing 63 and injuring nearly 4,000 people.

Boyce decided to take advantage of the tragic event in his project. All children were sent crayons and paper and asked to draw an earthquake.

Several of the children returned colorful and encouraging drawings. They only showed slightly damaged houses, happy families and smiling suns. More sensitive children, however, depicted in their work great destruction and injured people whose expressions were fearful and sad.

The number of immune cells in the children was then measured.

Research result surprised Boyce and colleagues: the change in the state of health of the children who drew the happy pictures was exactly the opposite of what you might imagine.

You see, children who drew up optimistic pictures of the earthquake suffered significantly more from respiratory infections than those who described horrors. The children who sent the darkest and most anxious illustrations of the earthquake remained relatively healthy in the weeks that followed.

Boyce explains the result of the research in his book as follows:

“I think it meant it was healthy and protective for children to create honest, even brutal, descriptions of real disasters – destruction, fires, fear, injuries and so on,” he says.

Boycen according to expressing emotions through writing, speaking, or through music is therapeutic for all of us, but especially the most sensitive children can get help expressing difficult or painful feelings to another person.

Disassembling frightening experiences verbally or pictorially is, he says, an ancient human tendency.

“We talk about what scares us, because then it gradually becomes less scary, as well as sadness, because telling makes sadness diminish a little every time.”

Now as the pandemic subsides, this gives both parents and, for example, curriculum developers something to think about. Making art provides researched ways to correct the traces caused by exceptional circumstances, and discussing work can create the necessary bridge from the adult world to the child’s world.

It is essential to allow the child to carry out the work freely and to report it with equal compulsion.

And to avoid unnecessarily simplistic interpretation.

Oman researching my child’s fine art folder eventually led to relief. He had written under the capsule picture Everything is Energy, that is, it seems to describe something more of a universal feeling than isolation from the world.

An eyeless woman was also revealed as a sketch.

In the actual work, he sees the future well.




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