Channels for Expression
Matilda Raffa Cuomo and Deborah E. Lans
a group of 21 7-13 year olds, working with their mentors (judges,
lawyers and other court personnel), picture book stories about
family, friends, trips, summer vacations and school prevail. But
one girl, 8 years old, creates a book about the twin towers and
the destruction there.
Lead by Robert Quackenbush, a psychoanalyst and author of 170
children’s books who is one of a number of art therapists working
with Mentoring USA, the youth and mentors presented to the group
the 12-page story books each pair had drawn during the mentoring
session. Talking about the drawings gave each participant an opportunity
to describe the story and the emotions surrounding the events
pictured. The 8-year-old, could express feelings about a terrifying
event she had seen repeatedly on television and which had touched
in a variety of ways, her Lower East Side neighborhood.
Experts agree that children often communicate some of their most
profound and difficult thoughts and emotions through art and symbols
— ones which they often cannot express verbally. And adults, sensitive
to the messages and process, can communicate reassurance through
symbols as well as words in response.
By offering youth the opportunity to work one-to-one with their
mentors, talking about their stories with trusted adults, and
then to share their stories with a group, Mentoring USA provides
a project through which the group can bond and support the individuals
as they express their concerns.
Both goals are important at this time of uncertainty. Adults must
offer children opportunities to ask questions about recent events
and, in turn, to address their fears and anxieties, offer reassurance
and correct misinformed and frightening rumors.
Group discussion also allows a chance to put recent events into
the perspective of traumas – both personal and societal – through
which the mentors have lived, and from our own history, to allow
us all to remember the various difficulties we have overcome.
The arts, because they open up different channels for expression,
often indirectly, have a crucial role to play in the ongoing healing
and coping we all must experience.
Cuomo is the Founder and Chairperson of Mentoring USA and Deborah
Lans is the Executive Director
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
(212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email: email@example.com.
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