How Teachers can use Art and Music Education to help Children Heal from Trauma and Crisis

Throughout history, art and music have been used for their healing properties in some form or another.   However, medical science, through research, especially the past few decades, has validated its scientific implications in the healing process of an individual.  There are times when medication may be skipped for the music / art alternative in hospitals,(research done at Harvard Medical School),  to lower stress levels and bring about physical well being.  

It is not an uncommon sight to see children as the worst victims of human suffering. The amount of violence, contagious diseases, and modern day stress put together has made its way into the lives of children all over the world. At first thought, we might picture the refugee camps of Africa, but when we think of the various other catastrophes that beset us, we find that children around the globe are not spared.

Many are rendered homeless and orphaned by the hurricanes that strike the coasts of the United States, the cyclones that sweep away areas of Gujarat and Orissa in India and the constant earthquakes off and around the coasts of Indonesia, to name a few. It is a heavy burden that rests on children’s shoulders in collecting themselves together and rebuilding their lives amidst the trauma, grief and shock that surrounds them.

Teachers play an important role in reaching out to such children, and the only way to help them heal is by reaching out to their heart, via the brain. For this, the most effective tools or methods by far are the use of music and art for the healing process. Music is the language while art is the expression of the soul. Releasing one’s emotions may be very difficult through words, but music helps share the grief, lighten the heart and help form a bond between souls. The intervention through art and art forms help bring out the mood, emotions and advice (given to children in this case) through indirect and unconscious expressions.

Teachers are professionals who are trained on the proper use and effective channeling of music and art to reach out to children. Each child is unique and reacts differently to trauma and crisis. Teachers are trained on how to read and understand a child’s expressions, how to respond to a child’s body language and also discern factors that have brought about such trauma. At times it might be the death of one or more family members or at times it might also be some form or domestic violence while still further it might be a result of terrorism or natural calamity. Understanding where the child comes from, that is, what the background of the child is like can help in discerning the right musical or artistic method to be used.

From a scientific point of view, the brain is the sponge that absorbs trauma. Trauma in return blocks out a great deal of sensitivity, caution, perception and reflex to stimuli areas of the brain rendering the person blank to surroundings and numb to his senses. However much counseling and group or family therapy is given or even taking a child through the scenes of trauma all over again to bring release of emotion, the most effective forms of healing for a child is seen only through the intervention of music and art.

Colors have found to appeal to children in many ways. Colors, when introduced to a child from the earliest years of life, sharpen their senses. Unconsciously and subconsciously, various colors have various impacts upon our brain. Using the right expressions of color can help trigger areas of the brain to release pent up emotions and thus bring about a healing process for the child. Some children find it difficult to express their feelings through words and thus it is not an uncommon scene to find children drawing the same picture over and over again. Teachers as professionals trained to understand children, use these drawings to understand what the child is trying to convey. At times, teachers work as mediators between a child and a psychologist in trying to help the child find emotional release and healing.

Children do not have the level of thinking as adults do. They are at a stage where games, playing and fun are the core of their hearts. Therefore counseling as in making a child think is a farfetched attempt. The liveliness of music, the rhythm of the drum beats, the soothing sound of soft music in the background and the sounds of various musical instruments touch the very heart of children in different ways. It has been found that all children respond differently to music, yet, all respond in some way.

Intervening cases of trauma and crisis with music and art go a long way in helping a child find himself or herself again. Teachers can be there for them through this process by being supportive, loving, caring, patient and willing to listen. It is necessary that teachers also bring themselves to the level of children and children’s simplicity to help share these gifts of music and art at appropriate times with them. Children will always be victims of grief, trauma and shock somewhere around the world, but the proper use of music and art can help go a long way into rebuilding and healing their lives.