Hope and Healing for Children Affected by Domestic Violence | ChildCareExchange.com

19/08/2015 2:02
Hope and Healing for Children Affected by Domestic Violence | ChildCareExchange.com

An excerpt from the above article. To read the full article connect via the hyperlink . You may need to create a free account, which gives you five credits to read five articles for free, a great resource.

I came across this article whilst reading another one on design strategies for domestic violence shelters at the Building Dignity site which can be viewed here, http://buildingdignity.wscadv.org/site-design/parent/.

Picture is property of and link to AIFS – Mandatory reporting
Natural healing

A more naturalized outdoor space can provide an alternative to the playground for traumatized children that allows them to move in ways that heal: walking or running on pathways through plantings, or dancing to soothing sounds made by rain sticks or an outdoor marimba.

 At Family Shelter Service, Mary Kay Inc. and the Mary Kay Foundation approached the shelter with funds to create a naturalized outdoor play space for their children. The outdoor space is filled with separate areas for planting, building with blocks, climbing, moving along pathways, digging in sand and soil, making music, dancing, and exploring and manipulating natural materials such as wood chips, pieces of tree branches, and small logs. Program staff attended a workshop to learn ways to use nature in children’s daily learning, and the program has recently become a certified Nature Explore Classroom. Mary Kay Inc. and the Mary Kay Foundation, as part of their efforts to support families affected by domestic violence, and to provide opportunities for children to connect with nature, have also funded the creation of Nature Explore Classrooms in four other domestic violence shelters in New Jersey, Texas, Georgia, and California.

“We see these Nature Explore Classrooms as a critical tool in helping to end the cycle of domestic violence that so often passes from generation to generation,” said Anne Crews, Vice President of Government Relations for Mary Kay Inc. and Mary Kay Foundation board member. “The classrooms will provide a safe, peaceful, and quiet place for children who have been abused or witnessed abuse to play, learn, and most importantly, to heal.”

Shauna Bigelow, Shelter Children’s Counselor, describes the benefits of connecting with nature on a daily basis for the children in the Family Shelter Service Residential Program:

“Nature provides so many lessons for us. As the children explore, they are learning about life cycles, change, uniqueness, responsibility, and stewardship.

“A young girl learning to water and care for a small plant is also learning to care for herself. A little boy watching a resident killdeer protect her nest begins to explore family dynamics. These lessons open the children’s minds and hearts, and the healing begins.”

Numerous studies have shown the profound benefits that all children receive from connecting with the natural world. Children affected by violence are especially in need of the soothing benefits of nature. Children who witness traumatic events may feel helpless and experience the world as unpredictable, hostile, and threatening. Spending time in nature can provide reassurance through the predictable routines of the seasons, the gentle way leaves sway in the wind, and the comforting beauty of flowers in bloom. Children can also heal by engaging in caretaking activities. As children water plants or trees, pull weeds in a garden or feed the birds, they begin to define themselves as nurturing individuals — an antidote to the sometimes violent parental role models they experienced.

Australian researcher, Almut Beringer (2000), who conducted research on how nature heals found that “experiencing healing through nature may initiate or strengthen an ethic of care for nature.”

Tess Michaels