Written by Carin French, Family Visit Coach with Home Start-Community Services for Families
“Art is a place for children to learn to trust their ideas, themselves, and to explore what is possible.” – MaryAnn F. Kohl
For all of us working with families and children who have suﬀered trauma, we see the toll it takes on their mental health. From a child’s perspective, they have no control of what happens in their lives—all decisions are made for them and they have no say about what they want or need.
Children that are involved in Home Start’s Family Visit Coaching have been removed from their homes by Child Welfare Services. Family visit coaches model and teach parents how they can help their children begin to feel safe again and to trust in them again. By oﬀering their children moments of empowerment and a sense of control, parents learn tools to help greatly improve their children’s emotional well-being.
Given that play is a critical function of learning for children, providing kids with instances to play about what they are going through is powerful and essential for children’s healthy social emotional development. This play can oﬀer parents a window into the big feelings and emotions young children may be working on.
Martha, seven years old, and Jonah, 5 years old were immediately drawn to the project and jumped right in working on their rooms. Both children used the materials to personalize their rooms in ways they each found aesthetically pleasing. These kids were solidly engaged in their work and stayed at it for over two hours.
The “loose parts” design of this activity, in which myriad materials are oﬀered to children, such as yarn, fabric scraps, tape, even little blinking lights, allowed for the kids to really get creative and Mom supported that there were no right or wrong ways to use them.
Jonah was so proud of his room and eager to “sleep” in it as he laid down and placed his head inside the box. On the bed he had made out of paper, he put blinking rainbow lights and was very satisfied with his final product. Jonah made sure he had gathered all the loose parts to his kit, before leaving his visit, so that he could continue to work on it at his Dad’s house.
Martha was also eager to decorate her room and came up with some amazing ideas in the way she decorated her space. Martha worked hard to customize her room and used almost every material that came in her kit. Martha was also very pleased with her room and was insistent on taking it home with her when the visit was over.
So many of our parents are struggling and do not have the means to provide activities like this for their visits. Your activity kits have provided this family instances for these kids to feel like they have some input in what happens in their lives, as well as safety in creating a space that is all their own.