THE theme for this Child Month was ‘Listen Up! Children’s Voices Matter’. Given the common Jamaican maxim, “Children must be seen and not heard,” this theme was timely and relevant.
Many adults still do not understand the danger inherent in silencing a child. Often a silent child is deemed to be well-behaved. However, this is a very dangerous precedent as it implies that a child has nothing to say, or nothing worth hearing. If a child is not allowed to express herself or himself, the emotional and psychological implications can be far and wide, and could result in the child being afraid to tell his or her parents if he or she is being abused or harassed or bullied.
Studies done by Hyson and Kostelnik revealed that children’s social and emotional health affect their overall development and learning. While some children are naturally quiet, most are expressive, and use language to learn and engage with their environment. If this is not your child, you need to pause and learn what your child is thinking and feeling.
As parents, caregivers, and mindful adults, we need not fear that if we allow our children too many opportunities to express themselves that it will come back to bite us. Evidence suggests the converse; that when adults treat children with respect and dignity and demonstrate that their feelings and ideas matter, children reciprocate with mutual respect and love. Allow your children to be seen and heard and reap the rewards by helping to create a safe and healthy environment for them.
Hence the ‘Listen Up! Children’s Voices Matter’ is a warning to all of us to listen to children and learn their hopes, fears, and aspirations. The theme is also a warning for us to re-examine the messages we send to our children that “adults are always right, and children are liars”. This belief further shuts down children and makes them vulnerable to negative and predatory adults. While parents are expected to know what is best for their children, it is important that a child’s feelings and sensibilities are taken into account. I invite all parents to grant their children the opportunity to share their feelings and ideas.
One way that educators and psychologists agree that this can be done is by using the creative arts as expression through poetry, drama, or drawing. Having worked with children at every level of their educational process, and having taught poetry, creative, dramatic, and storytelling as vehicles for expression, I know that these media allow for the greatest creative expression and honest sharing, so that parents and guardians can discern what’s going on with their children.
This is one reason that, during COVID-19, I sent around a call to parents to encourage their children to write and draw about their feelings. Though most schools have resumed face-to-face teaching, the threat of COVID-19 lingers, and just like us adults, children are trying to make sense of the major interruption of their lives over the last two years.
Below are some of the pieces that children around me produced about their emotions and their feelings during the novel coronavirus pandemic. The pieces reflect what the unprecedented time meant for our children, the sense they are making of COVID-19, and how it is altering how they will relate to others as well as the fears and anxieties it awakened. These are expressions of our children which offer a glimpse of the impact of the pandemic on them. Listen Up! Children’s Voices Matter!
I encourage all parents to provide space and time for their children to express their feelings and ideas through the use of a creative medium and look out for the launch of Breadfruit & Ackee, a journal for Caribbean children.
Crisis, by Courtney G, 13
Education inna crisis!
Children a bawl,
A who fah fault?
Teacha’s a bawl,
A who fah fault?
Money gone missin’,
What a cocka-faut! Who really at fault?
Everything in a crisis.
School a lock dung
A nuh COVID fault.
Police inna crisis!
Hospital inna crisis!
The worl’ inna crisis!
WHO AT FAULT?!
A NUH COVID FAULT?
What a cocka-faut.
My Life in the COVID Crisis, by Oren, 14
Life is meant to be enjoyed wisely
And as humans we take care of each other proudly
COVID has impacted our lives
in the bad and good times
But we as a people put our effort
into making a change for a nation
We have suffered our own types
of pain during this challenge
God has had a plan for us to seek for answers
and when we work together as a nation
we can fix the problem.
COVID-19 is a Bad Thing, by Mehki, 8
COVID-19 is a bad thing!
If you get sick and can pay the expenses
you can live for a longer time.
I don't feel like COVID-19 is a good thing to get
because you will get sick and maybe even die.
That's why I put on my mask and wash my hands
I use the hand sanitiser when I am going out.
When I got COVID-19 I didn't feel anything.
I thought I had a cold
One night I got too hot and then I had to take a shower
but it couldn't be hot water because
that will make me more hotter and
I may could have died.
I use cold water instead to cool me down.
I feel fine now!
Untitled, by Shawn Paul, 18
COVID is a virus
that is dangerous for you.
You might catch a flu
and you might get a tummy ache
but the severity of this virus
could put you in a hole.
So always wear your mask
and keep sanitised
because the safety of your health
is the safety of all.
Opal Palmer Adisa, cultural activist, gender specialist is the principal director of Adisa Consulting and the former university director of The Institute for Gender and Development Studies, RCO at The UWI.