It is a lucky world young people live in when there are adults or peers which can steer them towards a better tomorrow. There are mentors the world over who care and watch over troubled youth whose families were not able to provide appropriate guidance. These mentors to those young people can be second parents, great teachers or best friends. They employ what they know how to do best and that is lend an ear, show compassion and the courage to say “No, that’s not a good thing to do. This is better.”
In helping to teach what is better, drama can play an important role. Acting takes a person into another world; one which is trouble free or one some youth have not had the opportunity to experience. Still, it can be a world second skin to them but where problems similar to their own get solved. This is where drama is beneficial.
It teaches through virtual experience. The young person is placed in a situation where he must think and behave as he would under actual circumstances but where the right path is shown to him. In doing so, participants begin to develop strategies for coping with stressful or challenging situations. The youth live the desired result and thus learn how to behave and what decisions to make should the particular situation arise in their lives.
Consequently, attitude to life and its complexities, changes; it becomes more positive. This helps build inner strength but even more significantly, it helps to slowly constitute the individual’s self respect; a characteristic which is necessary in order to make sound choices in one’s life and to be able to show respect for others.
Getting back on the right track
It does not only help prevent a youngster from sliding down the slippery slope of wrong choices, but drama in the mentoring program can help young offenders climb back up from the bottom of that dark pit to the top for a better view of life.
Adults tend to overlook the fact that when a youngster is ill behaved and makes all the wrong choices, it is the behavior of those adults in the child’s immediate environment that has created such end results. Therefore, it is again adults who must display understanding, instill morals and hope and show the juvenile the correct path to take. This is where drama can do all of that in a way that is subtle yet one with a positive impact on the individual.
In fact, for a young boy named Ryan, in the UK, the drama program which was to take time off his court order turned out to be a life changing experience. Ryan, a juvenile offender at 16, turned into a student of business and media studies at 17 after completing a 16-hour drama workshop on knife crime. And Ryan is only one example. Rule of thumb is that every child (no matter the age) wants to be ‘good’.
Learning Social Skills
Through drama the participants learn to acquire a different stance towards others. When placed in a group where they need to learn cooperation, responsibility for allocated duties and how to provide assistance to others, these otherwise anti-social beings learn to bond and it alters their attitude towards group work; hence, they gradually view society differently.
This feeling is enforced by the fact that participants develop better verbal and written communication skills. Through acting, in particular situations, they are able to develop understanding for their colleagues (other participants) empowered by respect for those youngsters.
The revelation that they could learn to do a particular task well which was acceptable and deemed worthy, contributes not only to their pleasure or sense of achievement, but also gives them a sense of self worth; something all of these souls had lost long ago.
Many youngsters participating in such programs, as did Ryan, end up gaining confidence and belief that they deserve and can become a better person. They come to believe in their potential, they come to realize they have potential and many, if not most, continue education for a better future. The end result is that drama helps transform a troubled youth and guides young people towards the right life forming decisions.