Critical training to better protect, support, and heal vulnerable children


series: Protecting the Children by Wayne Bleier


The process is important, not the result. Some kids are good drawers, some kids aren't. But in recognizing their drawing and commenting on the things and finding positives in that will improve the child's sense of themselves and their sense of mastery. And it'll make them want to draw again.

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I've seen amazing things with children improving drawing over time, but we want to encourage them rather than discourage them. We want to encourage children to try new activities because it's through trying new things, developing and having a good experience. Did they develop confidence?

And so that's why we want to give them the choice like "you can do this, you can do this, you can do this." Maybe if a child is doing the same thing all the time, we can take that child and say let's do this together. Let's encourage and find a way to incorporate something new into that child's repertoire. It's through encouraging that the child will get confidence and a positive sense of themselves.

I think it's important that we have some ground rules and that the children can come up with them or you can come up with them by one of those ground rules is that we don't hit and we don't fight and if we do then this is what happens.

So children know ahead of time that what's okay and what's not okay. But these rules should be minimal and it should create a safe environment for children. Rules such as no picking on other children, everybody plays together and nobody's excluded. Things like that to incorporate cooperation and group work. I think this is particularly important with shy or withdrawn children and also disabled children who often aren't included into activities.

It's important that we treat children with respect and dignity and don't call them names or make fun of them or intimidate them. If we're feeling angry, sometimes do that. So we need to calm down ourselves before we interact with children. We don't want to call chosen names because that doesn't encourage them to try new things. It also affects their sense of themselves and their self esteem.

Adolescents are concerned about the community. They are concerned about right and wrong. They are concerned about moral issues. It's important that we give them that space and that we give them the opportunity to discuss these things that are important to them because they are, and with little children you can do that too.

But with adolescents it's how they're defining themselves and getting at where they fit into the larger world. So these are important issues for them that they can learn from by talking about it.

It's important for children to express what's going on. As we know, many children don't. Children often don't talk about what's bothering them, but they will express it in other ways, such as through their drawing, through puppets, through act, through drama and through writing stories.

It's important that children are given the opportunity to express themselves. That they're reinforced for doing that. Many of the children that I've worked with will start drawing pictures of what happened to them, and then over time you'll see the changes in the pictures. And this happens naturally if children are given that space to work out the things that they need to, whether it's through expressive activities or through play.

Often you'll see children building houses or knocking down houses or building things out of clay, and that's how children work through what's bothering them. All we need to do is give them that space, make sure it's safe, and ask them what they're doing and show them attention.


Wayne Bleier

Wayne is a trained child and family therapist with over 25 years of experience supervising and implementing CP programs overseas in Former -Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Rep of Congo, Indonesia, East Timor, Afghanistan, Liberia, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, Uganda, Lebanon, and Bangladesh. During this time he worked with Mike Wessells at Columbia University.

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He has worked for IRC, Save the Children UK, Child Fund International, War Child UK and UNICEF. Wayne holds an MSW degree from the University of Washington. Currently he holds the position of Child Protection Manger and Case Management Specialist for DRC's program working in the Rohingya emergency in Bangladesh.


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