by GLORIA RIVAS and OLGA RAMIREZ
USING ART THERAPY TO BUILD SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING
As we are both parents, we always encourage our children to express their thoughts and feelings. Yet, even as adults, it can sometimes be challenging to communicate how we feel. The same can be said for children. This is why it is important to teach children from an early age how to communicate their feelings in a positive manner.
As Student Success Coaches at the Student Success Center, we support students in improving their academic performance and providing tools connected to social-emotional learning. We both have children who started in the Student Success Center and now are volunteering in the program. One of the programs at the Student Success Center that stood out to us was Art Speaks.
Started in September 2017, the program uses art therapeutic tools to help children engage in conversations and building skills in communicating their feelings and managing conflict in a positive manner. With an art therapist on staff, we developed a character building curriculum that engages youth weekly with different art activities to promote healthy social-emotional learning.
We love this program because it gives the youth a different way to talk about self-esteem, conflicts in schools, bullying or other issues the children may be experiencing with a trusted adult to help them navigate through some of the challenges.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, the children were tasked with creating a HE(ART) valentine for someone they care about and expressing in three sentences why they valued that person. Love was certainly in the air, as the children eagerly created their HE(ART)s. The emotion was surpassed only by the anticipation of handing them out. Some were made for parents, others for their brothers and sisters and others for friends within the Student Success Center.
More than just an art project, the art speaks workshop built in questions that were centered around supporting one another and maintaining a healthy relationship. Teaching communication skills, especially around feelings, at a young age is important. By teaching our kids to effectively communicate their feelings at a young age, we are also as adults becoming more proactive in providing healthy coping mechanisms to deal with challenging emotional situations.
In the end, Art Speaks is an amazing tool for children to subconsciously develop skills that they can even take with them for the rest of