Encourage Creativity in Adolescence

Young children are full of creativity and strong imagination. They explore their world with few boundaries. But as children enter adolescence, they become self-conscious and face intense pressure to conform. Most teens don’t want to stand out, and their longing to fit in inevitably reduces their creativity. At first glance, this might not seem like such a bad thing. After all, we want young adults to be realistic and it might seem like a natural part of maturing. However, flexing our creative muscles helps us to develop problem solving skills, encourage curiosity, and manage tough times or challenges in our life. Being creative can actually help us to be more successful in life.

Research shows that creativity offers the following benefits:

  • Reduces stress and anxiety.
  • Becomes a great outlet for expression and a positive way to process difficult emotions.
  • Develops resourcefulness and innovation.
  • Promotes “outside-the-box” thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Improves self-confidence.
  • Increases motivation in youth.
  • Encourages critical thinking.
  • Improves academic performance.
  • Increases overall sense of happiness.

With so many benefits, encouraging creativity in our youth seems vitally important! But as most parents of teens know, if you try to push your teen to do anything, they will push back. We cannot force our teens to engage in creative activities. Instead, here are a few ways that parents and teachers can inspire tweens and teens to foster originality, imagination, ingenuity, and innovation.

Tips to Strengthen a Teen’s Creativity

Be a role model. The most important thing you can do to encourage creativity in your teen’s life is to model it in your own life. When you face a problem, let them see you brainstorm solutions and consider out-of-the-box ideas. Show them that it’s okay to try something innovative, even if the result is that it doesn’t work. Use artistic endeavors to bring you happiness or reduce your stress. Teens need to see that creativity is a valuable tool you use in your daily life.

Identify a passion. You can foster creativity by giving youth the space and encouragement to try new experiences. Sometimes we limit our definition of creativity to just art, but it’s so much more than that. It can be acting, writing, learning to cook or bake, playing a musical instrument, coding a new video game, choreographing a dance, songwriting, knitting, styling fashion or interior spaces, and so much more! Encourage your teen to try new things to find an activity that they find enjoyable and exciting.

Break Convention. Make your home a safe place to go against norms by doing some unconventional activities in your family. Occasionally throw out the rules for a day and do something unusual. Have dessert for dinner. Challenge everyone to stay up as late as they can (on a weekend with no obligations, of course). Announce an opposite day where everyone is supposed to do the opposite of their normal activities. Helping children see that divergent thinking requires questioning typical ways of doing things may be just the spark they need to invest in more creative endeavors. 

Encourage experimentation. Ask your child to try several different methods of approaching a problem or project and then have them reflect on what was the best or most effective way of doing it. Even if you know one of their methods will not work, allow your teen to discover this on their own. This approach fosters creative thinking, problem solving and metacognitive skills. 

Praise efforts. Pay attention to your teen’s efforts as they try new things or demonstrate creativity. We should praise their resourcefulness and open-ended thinking. It’s a win whenever they take initiative to solve a problem or come up with a new way to do something common. It’s more important they feel valued for the hard work they undertook, than for the end result. If you want to praise their results, consider letting your child overhear you compliment their success to someone else. You might show a grandparent your teen’s drawing and express admiration for her artistic ability.

Normalize mistakes. One of the reasons youth shy away from creativity is their fear of failure. If you can demonstrate to them that mistakes are acceptable and important to the process of learning, they will be more willing to try something innovative. If they try something (whether creative or not), praise them for their effort (again, not results). If an idea fails or if they get frustrated with their results when they are starting a new activity, make sure you emphasize that their efforts are “not working yet.” Using the word yet can reassure them that, while they might be struggling in the moment, you believe that they can achieve something great if they are persistent. You can also talk about mistakes that you have made in the past and how you managed the situation and how your mistakes led you to new learning and discoveries.

Use technology. Teens’ noses are glued to screens, so why not use that to your advantage. A good way to get kids to find creative projects is through YouTube. Talk a little bit about what they’re interested in, watch a YouTube video about it, and then try to re-create it. You can find tutorials on almost anything online, from cake decorating, playing the guitar, sewing, dancing, coding a video game, and so much more.

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