Saturday, April 23, 2011


This week, the Shelter Board of Directors was using one of the women's groups' meeting rooms, so the women had to use my space. It worked out. The children, "babysitters" and I met in the large playroom which has plenty of tables.

I asked the kids to draw "What makes you happy." When each one finished,I asked him or her to draw "What makes you sad." "Can it be what makes me scared?" one boy asked. I said, "Sure," and several kids followed his route.

I was reminded of how much artistic talent I've seen before in shelter kids. When the kids in this group handed me their drawings, at least half of them, some only 5-7 years old, showed drawing skill far beyond what you'd expect to see in kids their age.

There were fewer "happy" than "sad or scared" pictures, but they covered fairly typical responses for kids in their age group, which was 5-12. The subjects? "Mommy", butterflies and a spider, "making music and drawing", playing with gameboys; a flower, tree, and friend.

"Sad or scared" pictures consisted of a bullying situation (which started a mini-discussion of bullies), "another lady crying", a poster re: the danger of smoking, dinosaurs or sharks devouring a man, snakes threatening a home, a sibling problem, and a confusing fantasy figure whose life was both happy and mortally threatened.

The quality of the "happy" artwork was better, but that might be because it was their first picture so they took more care. The drawings of the more happy-appearing, more trusting kids reflected these personality traits in their pictures.

The more openly sad or anxious kids were often careful, excellent artists, but they didn't seem to enjoy drawing or talking about their pictures as much as the "happier" group did.

This is a small sample,I know, of the large number of kids currently living in violent homes or who have at some time lived with a batterer. Still, I can't help wondering if there is sometimes a connection between the development of precocious, outstanding artistic talent and an environment that demands constant, careful, anxious observation.

Not a happy thought.
Guess I'm glad I can't draw.

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