Kids today. How well do you think you know them? If you asked kids across the country “what makes life good for you”, what do you think that they’d tell you? Raise your hand if you think that most of them would say stuff like playing video games or getting new toys or going to amusement parks or eating ice cream? If you raised your hand, put it down and get ready to learn something beautiful.
We asked kids all over the United States this very question and invited them to answer it with their art. We looked at every single scribble and brush stroke and when the results were all in and tallied, the answer was clear, love is the superest of all kid superpowers! The majority of kids – 30% of 5,500 entries, in fact – credited their moms and dads, their sisters and brothers, their friends and pets for the goodness in their lives. Turns out that to lots of kids, the best things in life aren’t things at all.
I wasn’t surprised. Okay – maybe just a little. But as a clinical social worker that has spent the past twenty years working with children who’ve been forced to endure some of life’s most horrific challenge, I shouldn’t have been. Just about every counselor and clinician knows that nothing is more harmful to the development of children than disrupted attachment (which too often comes in the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse and/or neglect at the hands of those who are supposed to love and care for them). Without healthy attachment relationship (aka good old fashion love and care), life isn’t good for any kid. Conversely, when children grow up surrounded by lots of healthy attachment relationships, life is good.
Now don’t get me wrong, at times every child’s life will be impacted by fear, pain, and loss. Nobody escapes that. However when children are rooted in a foundation of love and care, they are far more capable of using their social, emotional and cognitive superpowers to move through the dark clouds of life and get back to playing in the sunshine. Loving relationships make everything better. Video games are more fun when played with a friend. Ice cream tastes sweeter when it’s shared and rollercoasters are more exhilarating when you don’t have to scream alone.
Documentary Filmmaker Ric Burns say, “the quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to the quality of their relationships.” I remember thinking at the time that this was one of the most profound statements that I had ever heard. It’s a real good sign for humanity that our kids are wise enough to figure this out before I did. John, Paul, George and Ringo were right. All you need is love – and perhaps an occasional trip to an amusement park.
Steve Gross, Chief Playmaker & MSW, is a clinical social worker and a pioneer in the field of using playful engagement and relationships to overcome the devastating impact of early childhood trauma.
Steve’s talents have been called upon to respond to some of the greatest catastrophes of our time. At the heart of his work, Steve helps others discover the power of optimism so that they can build resilience and bring greater joy, connection, courage and creativity to their lives.