Participation: An Expression of Sadness


Girl, 4 years, United States

This drawing represents a 4-year-old child’s expressions of emotion. This work speaks to children’s acknowledgment of their right to participate in the world, expressing a range of emotions in a manner that is not dictated by adults.

From my wise colleague, Kirsten: What I love about this image is it really reveals the broader, more refined thinking and observational skills required to truly converse, listen and watch for how children express their experiences of their rights. Western culture in particular seems obsessed almost with being happy to the point of disregarding or trying to quickly do away with sadness, rather than acknowledging and being in that moment with others, whether it’s with children or adults. The image also makes me think of how our expectations of children can open and shut doors – a child would need to be in an environment where they have the freedom, time and sense of safety to create such an intense and emotional piece. The image also acknowledges that a child’s experience of rights isn’t one-dimensional.