In my research program, we have studied the feasibility, acceptability, and benefits of holistic arts-based group methods for the improvement of resilience in marginalized children and youth. Through our research, we developed HAP (Holistic Arts-Based Program), which is a 12-week arts-based mindfulness group program. In HAP, a wide variety of arts-based and experiential activities are used to teach mindfulness-based practices. Mindfulness is a holistic philosophy and practice that is demonstrating great promise in work with children and youth.

Mindfulness is often understood as activity that encourages awareness to emerge through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment. Despite the challenges that marginalized young people can experience, they can benefit from learning about mindfulness if these methods are facilitated in engaging and strengths-based ways that meet their needs, and promote and foster success.

While marginalized children are diverse, they often lack many of the characteristics of resilient children such as positive self-concept/esteem, self-awareness, hopefulness/optimism, emotional expression, emotional management in stressful situations, and interpersonal problem-solving skills. Accordingly, HAP aims to build various aspects of resilience such as self-awareness, social and problem-solving skills, emotional understanding and regulation, self-compassion and empathy, and the ability to pay attention and focus, within a context that is strengths-based and responsive to the children’s needs.

Children and youth who participate in our program consistently report that HAP is a lot of fun. They really enjoy

  • the arts-based activities and games, learning things about themselves and ideas about life, sharing and expressing ideas, learning to use imagination, and being encouraged to engage in a variety of activities;
  • eating snacks – we provide a healthy snack at break-time; and
  • making friends – many children in need are marginalized and it can be a normalizing experience for them to be in a group with children from similar backgrounds who have similar familial and life experiences.

Importantly, we have found that it is through the experience of having fun and enjoying themselves that children can be helped to improve their self-awareness and to feel better about themselves, and to learn emotion regulation and the healthy expression of feelings.

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