Are you wondering – what’s the point of fostering creativity in your teenager when the current world of commerce continues to focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects?
As a parent, you may be inclined to steer your creative teen from pursuing the arts, based on the hackneyed stereotype of the jobless “starving artist.”
That’s not reality though.
As an arts academy high school, we have a roster of successful students who have gone to college and/or landed careers in the arts after graduation. So we’re definitely advocates of encouraging such creativity.
Our reasons go beyond getting a job though.
The Psychological Benefits of Fostering Creativity in Your Teenager
Most parents of teenagers would give their eye teeth for their kids to feel calmer and more grounded during the tumultuous adolescent years. The arts – be it dance, visual, music, or otherwise – enable this.
The field of psychology studies the benefits of being in “flow” experiences; particularly where teenagers are involved. A flow experience is one in which a person is COMPLETELY absorbed in an activity.
So, for example, when your teenager plays her guitar, draws, or dances for extended amounts of time, it is actually improving her mental health.
Plenty of research bears this out. In one study, 658 students kept a diary for 13 days recording how much time they spent on creative endeavors. Those who practiced a creative activity once per day were happier than those who didn’t. They reported that their emotional state was improved and they felt more enthusiastic.
It turns out that creativity also combats anxiety. Studies show that students involved in flow experiences before embarking on stressful events such as taking a test show marked decreases in anxiety. The implication from studies such as these is that creativity can help people to deal with stress. What’s more, creative activities that offer these flow experiences also serve as a digital detox.
So How Can You Encourage Creativity?
Creative expression is soothing and nurtures the imagination. It also improves critical thinking and problem-solving skills and teaches teenagers to think outside the box. These are all essential skills for the job world – regardless of what career your teenager eventually pursues.
For teens who are especially inclined toward the arts, it is ill-advised to discourage them from exploring creativity and potentially harmful to their mental health.
Once you’re able to embrace the idea that pursuing the arts and learning through creative disciplines will not leave your child destitute and on the street, you can do things that will nurture their creativity instead.
1. Welcome Questions
Any time your teenaged child is not sure of something, encourage them to ask questions. If you’re not able to answer those questions, then help them figure out how to find the answers themselves.
They are bound to come up with viewpoints you don’t share or understand. Lead by example to show them it’s okay to have differing viewpoints without either person being wrong, and that they can be expressed in a way that’s not dismissive of others.
2. Avoid Being Dismissive
How often does your teenager present what you deem to be an outlandish idea – only to have it shot down? You may be working from well-meaning intentions, but you could be inadvertently stifling their creativity.
The last thing a teenager wants is a nervous, bossy, and hovering parent who believes he or she knows better what their child needs. This is the opposite of fostering creativity.
Remember, it’s tough enough for teenagers to embrace trying something new. But having a willingness to move out of their comfort zone will be an essential skill as they enter adulthood.
So celebrate this willingness to take risks. Encourage their wanting to try a new instrument, explore painting, or learn digital arts. Allow them to learn the hard lesson that creativity can (and will) sometimes result in failure. It’s far better than being too beaten down to even try in the first place.
3. Look At Your Own Creativity
This one can be dicey.
On the one hand, if you were never encouraged to explore the arts, you may believe you don’t have a creative bone in your body. In this case, understanding your teen’s interest in the arts is difficult.
On the other hand, you may have once been engaged in some sort of art but were discouraged from pursuing it once you got older. Are you doing the same thing to your teenager now?
If you believe yourself to be lacking creativity, consider the activities you do that are inherently creative. It could be cooking, picking out furniture, gardening, or even something to do with your job. Parenting requires creativity!
And if you were once enthralled with a creative endeavor, how about revisiting it? Sign up for a class, return to writing a story, start dabbling in painting again.
Recognizing the importance of creativity – in whatever form it takes in your life – will only lend to fostering creativity in your teenager.
4. Expose Them to Art
We talked about a digital detox above. One of the best ways to achieve this is getting your kids out into nature. And nature just happens to be a stellar artist.
Unless you’ve cultivated an appreciation for nature early on, heading into it may not be your teenager’s idea of a good time. But once they open themselves to it, they’ll discover how inspiring it is. A fiddlehead, a flower, a river running over rocks – these are all works of art.
Of course, immersing them in culture by visiting galleries and museums or going to dance or musical performances also offers inspiration.
How you expose them to art is not as important as actually doing it. Teenagers given these diverse opportunities and experiences will be more open to creative inspiration as they become functioning adults in society.
And hopefully, you get some enjoyment along the way too.
Could Your Teenager Thrive in an Arts Academy High School?
Creativity is about inspired thinking and gaining the ability to use imagination in everyday life.
At Arts Academy in the Woods, we understand the importance of fostering creativity in your teenager. We use an alternative arts-integrated approach to help students get their creative juices flowing, teach them to think outside the box, and show them ways to brainstorm creative solutions in all areas of life.
So if you want to see your creative teenager thrive in an academic environment, contact us today. And prepare for possibilities!