If you cast your mind back to when your kids were little, the need to encourage creative play or inventive thoughts was rarely necessary – to small children, thinking outside the box is as natural as breathing and brings with it imaginative and artistic activities. As teenage years approach, children often become self-conscious and wary about stepping outside of their comfort zone. However, all is not lost - it’s never too late to re-inspire them!
1. Lead By Example
The best way to encourage your teen’s creativity is to lead by example. Perhaps you once had a passion for writing, or enjoyed dabbling in painting, which sadly got buried beneath the commitments of family life. Or maybe you go every week without fail to your pottery class. We all have a flair for creativity (even if it is hidden well beneath the surface or long-forgotten), so whether you bake up a storm, have a flair for home furnishings, or a passion for math (yes, that counts, too), do it with gusto, and let your teen see.
2. It’s Not Just About Arts & Crafts
Creativity isn’t limited to painting or writing. It’s also about inspired thinking, and being able to use imagination in everyday life. For example, if your teen is struggling with an aspect of school work, use alternative methods to get their creative juices flowing, such as brainstorming to come up with solutions to their problems, inspiring them to think outside the box. Use team-building exercises as a family, or encourage your teens to collaborate with friends or peers on a task, as sharing thoughts and ideas in a productive manner helps cultivate creativity.
3. Encourage Questioning
A fantastic way to encourage creativity is to urge your teens to query anything they aren’t sure of, and look for answers to their questions. Allow them to explore their own opinions and beliefs and let them see that not everyone thinks the same way they do, and that’s okay. Show them that just because they have a viewpoint not shared by others, doesn’t mean it is wrong, and at the same time, help your teen understand that there is a way of expressing views adamantly, without being rude or dismissive of others.
4. Don’t Stifle Their Creativity
Encourage your teens to try something new, perhaps an activity they haven’t previously considered, such as learning a musical instrument. Let them decide what they’d like to eat for dinner, urging them to choose a dish they have never tasted. Try not to impose your own particular views too rampantly, for even the most well-meaning parent can inadvertently stifle their teen’s creativity by being overly bossy. If you find yourself dismissive or flippant of more outlandish suggestions or thoughts your teen comes up with, or are more worried about the mess they are making, then back off! A hovering, nervous parent is hardly conducive to creativity.
5. Let Them See It Is Okay to Take Risks
The willingness to take risks is often stunted as kids become teens. They are much more acutely aware of the sometimes harsh world that goes on around them, and trying something new, or participating in an activity that is out of their comfort zone, can be a scary thought. It’s important to foster the belief that it is okay to fall at the first hurdle; that creativity can bring with it failure, but that’s okay. If you don’t try, you can never succeed.
6. Discover Life
There is nothing more inspiring than nature. Take your teens to the beach or for long, rambling walks in the forest. Encourage your kids to really look at what’s around them: stop to admire a pretty flower, or nature’s intricate artwork on an ancient tree-trunk. Breathe in fresh air, and simply revel in the beauty that surrounds you.
Immerse them in history, culture and art by visiting museums and galleries. Take them to the ballet, a music concert, or out to dinner in a fine-dining restaurant. There’s a whole world waiting to be discovered: a culturally aware teen, one that has been given the opportunity to experience diversity, is much more open to being inspired creatively.