If you want to be inspired, take a look at what teenagers are up to these days. Creative teens are starting global movements and trends. They are becoming inventors, artists, authors, activists, and entrepreneurs.Teens are redefining the world as we know it, and they’re just getting started!

What makes these visionary kids so capable? Neuroscience says that teens have a creative edge: brains that are developmentally primed for learning new skills and abilities, making connections, and divergent thinking. Teens are also more inclined than adults to take risks. When it comes to creative problem solving, that’s a very good thing. As a parent, you can play a powerful role in sparking and protecting kids’ creativity. Here’s how you can help them do it.

  1. Prioritize passion. Creativity researcher E. Paul Torrence says, “One of the most powerful wellsprings of creative energy, outstanding accomplishment, and self-fulfillment seems to be falling in love with something.” Many highly creative people describe having experienced a moment of discovery that felt like love at first sight: a combination of fascination and the feeling of “this is what I am here to do.” Help your teen find their flow by giving them lots of opportunities to explore and develop their interests.

  2. Don’t underestimate curiosity. Many teens have a bunch of interests or jump constantly from one activity to another. Passion fuels creativity, but so does curiosity. Think of your teen as an explorer. It’s not your job to tell them where to go, but you can equip them for the journey and celebrate their discoveries. The more exploring they do, the more likely they are to find their own path to purpose.

  3. Ensure unstructured time. Kids today are as over-scheduled as their parents. But creativity researcher Scott Kaufman insists that daydreaming is not a waste of time. He suggests that daydreaming is a kind of “incubator” for creativity and that all of us should allow our minds to wander from time to time. Encourage unstructured time first by making sure your teen knows it\’s ok to be unproductive. Then help them build boundaries to protect against over-scheduling.

  4. Let them be weird. Highly creative teens tend to be more individualistic than most, and that can be worrying for some parents. “It’s my job to protect my daughter, and I was afraid she was going to be bullied,” says one mom whose 13-year-old suddenly started wearing anime-inspired outfits and making her own clothes and jewelry. “But she’s completely confident in her choices, so I support her.” As parents, we want to spare our kids from the adolescent awkwardness we remember all too well – but stepping back and letting them experiment will build their creative courage.

  5. Help them take creative risks. Whether your teen is cautious or bold, you can help them recognize that taking a risk is a choice and they’re ultimately in charge of their decision. Asking simple questions like, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” and “What’s the best thing that could happen?” and talking through options helps kids learn to trust themselves in taking that creative leap.

  6. Create together. When was the last time you got to do something creative? As always, your teen’s most powerful example is the one you set. Make sure you’re exploring your own curiosities and nurturing your own passions while taking time to create with your teen. We know one family who turned a corner of their garage into an art studio, and now it’s their favorite place to hang out together. Ask your teen what they’re curious about and let them take the lead in figuring out a creative experience to share.

Scott Kaufman says it best: “When we embrace our own messiness–engaging with the world with our own unique imagination and artistry–we give others permission to do the same. We help create a world that is more welcoming of the creative spirit and…make it possible to find a greater connection with ourselves and others in the process.” 

Originally published on Personalexcellence.org.


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