For young people and children, taking part in performing arts activities can help with major life challenges. One in five children will have experienced mental health problems at least once in their lives by the time they leave primary school, whether that be exam stress, bereavement, and not being able to socialise with their friends.
The performing arts are a powerful force that should be at the forefront of bringing children and young people together in a meaningful and healthy way. And here’s why:
When learning to sing, students are taught breathing techniques, such as how to use their diaphragm and increase their oxygen intake and lung capacity. Understanding breath techniques can be used to help those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. Studies have shown that singing releases endorphins which reduce stress and anxiety levels, allowing students to switch off from the outside world and just enjoy the activity.
Being physically active releases positive endorphins. This makes children feel more relaxed and overall happier. Dance classes are a great way to get students moving, burning calories, developing muscle control, balance and coordination. According to a study conducted by Psychology Professor Peter Lovatt, the increased levels of happiness experienced while dancing is measurable even after as long as a week after the last dance.
Acting and drama classes offer students a safe place to explore issues relevant to their lives. Ultimately, it provides a space that encourages conversation and healing through creative expression. Performing as a group provides young people with a shared positive experience, something they are able to bond over, creating friends and a support network. For many, having a group outside of school or family is vital.
Removal from the normal social world through repeated lockdowns and ongoing restrictions impacts young people significantly as social interaction is a vital developmental need for all. The performing arts play an important role in ensuring that young people feel part of a wider community, maintaining a vital element of pre-pandemic life and securing certainty where there would otherwise be further anxiety. In Scotland, children who participated in a creative or cultural activity were 38% more likely to report good health compared to those who did not.
All people like to feel successful and when this happens, we feel very motivated and engaged with what we’re doing. Social comparison occurs in all walks of life and our need to feel and demonstrate our competence has been neglected from young people’s lives during the pandemic. Performing arts provide multiple ways to promote self-expression, feeling successful and gaining enhanced confidence.
Speaking on his role as principal of Stagecoach North Tyneside, Joshua Bradley said:
“Performing arts play a crucial role in children’s educational and emotional development, and improve children’s health and mental wellbeing. There is nothing more important than providing a safe, fun and exciting environment for our students so that they can thrive and enjoy the positive benefits that come with the performing arts.”