Child’s Play

Susie McDonald
Chief Executive, Tender UK

It occurs to me that adults can often over complicate ideas and issues that children can make so simple. We peddle myths like “He only hits her because he loves her so much; relationships are complicated”. The young people we work with are able to turn these ideas on their heads – “If you really love someone, you’ll do anything not to hurt them”.

Tender blog picHow do we do this? As an arts charity working to prevent domestic and sexual violence, we use drama and story telling to equip children and young people with the skills to understand the components of healthy, violence-free relationships. Our approach enables young people to view a narrative from a different perspective, or a number of different perspectives. They begin to understand that a story isn’t set in stone and that they have the ability to create and shape positive stories in their own lives.

We have a host of stories. Some are about a shift in self-awareness; “I am feeling a lot more sure of myself and what kind of person I am” said a 10-year-old girl, following participation in one of our projects. For some, the programme may have a monumental impact on the rest of their lives; following a project in her secondary school, a young woman understood that the intimate relationship she was in was unhealthy for her so she decided to leave.

It is often the person with the loudest voice or seemingly the most compelling narrative who gets their story heard. I would like to think that by working with children and young people, they understand that their story is as important as anyone else’s, that they are not powerless to change it and that we are listening.

The story used to be that what goes on behind closed doors is no one else’s business. But that’s changing. The story used to be that it was acceptable to wear fur, drink drive, send children up chimneys……we are working with a generation of young people who can re-tell the most entrenched stories to create a better ending for everyone.

In the words of a teenager “I’ll always be there for you if you need me. There is no need to be afraid. You’ll be ok.”

And so the story is changing! We are safe in the hands of this generation of articulate, responsible young people.