Art Making And The Teenage Brain

 
 

It is no secret in our American culture that teenagers are notorious for being challenging. Teen’s worlds are shifting from childhood to young adulthood while their molding characteristics are becoming more permanent. Studies have shown that these overwhelming changes and emotions have made anxiety related disorders skyrocket as a result of the pressure teenagers are dealing with on a day to day basis. Drawchange offers a healthy option.

Our programs give teens and children a healthy outlet for mentorship, self-esteem awareness and empowerment.

Young adults are desperate to lose themselves in an outlet, and scientists have found that the habits teens develop at this age have the ability to shape them positively or negatively for the rest of their lives. The aroused dopamine system craves stimulating activity, resulting in a higher percentage of substance use. However, should adolescents immerse themselves in a healthy alternative, such as channeling their energy toward transcending through art, something beautiful could take place.

Giving young adults a space to express their emotions makes a world of difference. Through creating with drawchange, teenagers have an opportunity to relay their innermost feelings upon their projects– allowing for subconscious healing to occur. When the sensation of making art is associated with a euphoric emotion or sense of release, positive reinforcement is established. A teen girl in one of our homeless shelter programs endured a series of unfortunate events. She allowed drawchange into her heart each week to work through her emotions. Her artwork ranged from pure, blissful images to deeply, imaginative scenery to a deeply, darker side. By following up with her from week to week, it was easy to see the positive change in the girl between the beginning of the classes to the end.

The teen girl’s relaxed state of mind was transparent by the time the hour came to an end.

Drawchange is careful to find the perfect balance between giving positive direction without keeping the teenagers too stiffly structured. Adolescents’ days are already so  controlled, so drawchange provides a “safe place” for expression and non-judgement. The freedom to express themselves gives the teens both a sense of control that they lack throughout their school day and a sense of belonging. All of the children that participate in drawchange demonstrate an incredible increase in self-confidence, but no one appears more self-assured than teenagers who find a piece of themselves that they truly love.

This blog post was written as a response to the article  Harnessing the Incredible Learning Potential of the Adolescent Brain  by Katrina Schwartz. Whereas there are many relevant and important points in this article that resonate with drawchange philosophy, one portion of the article about how to end poverty raises some questions. Laurence Steinberg, a Temple University neuroscientist, states that statistically speaking (however research was not provided in this article), one has to follow four rules in order to have a “good life:”

  • Finish High School
  • Don’t have a child out of wedlock
  • Don’t get into trouble with the law
  • Don’t be idle.

This is described as a black and white sentiment that doesn’t take into account varied life experiences.

Following these four rules does not guarantee a happy and productive life, nor does a failed life have to be the result of mishaps or not following the rules in a traditional sense.

Drawchange believes in teaching adolescents how to self-regulate by providing them with creative experiences that allow them to productively channel their energy, improve mood, mental health, and well-being. Our art experiences help children and teens make healthy choices toward becoming productive and stable adults.

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