How Creative Expression Supports Your Child’s Development
There is plenty of empirical research that suggests the arts play a vital role in supporting positive youth development. Creative processes activate imagination; foster problem-solving and critical thinking; advance perception, courage, and confidence; teach self-control and grit to succeed in reaching long-term goals; and motivate learning in children and adolescents.
Creative expression is the ability to use our minds and imaginations to create something that represents ourselves (daitips.com).
Through visual arts and performance (e.g. yoga, meditation, contemporary performance) methods youth have an opportunity to discover and express ideas, feelings, nature, culture, beliefs and values. Moreover, when an individual expresses themself, they have a chance to learn about who they are and where they come from. Additionally, the creative expression and actions of one individual can benefit cultures by demonstrating how to communicate in a variety of ways that introduce diversity and inclusion of others.
Creative expression supports insights and discoveries about one’s self in an authentic and spontaneous way. Throughout the stages of human development, artistic methods can support the development of social emotional skills and foster human strengths. Social emotional learning and character strengths are related but not identical. Social emotional learning (SEL) refers to the process of how young people and adults obtain the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy, resilient identities. Whereas character strengths are specific psychological processes that are related to virtues. Martin Seligman and his colleagues examined all religions and philosophical traditions and discovered six virtues are shared in all cultures across millenia. Both SEL and character strengths support the optimal development of the individual across the lifespan.
Social emotional learning includes five components:
- Self-awareness – a child’s ability to understand their thoughts and feelings, and connect them to behaviors.
- Self-management – a child’s ability to regulate emotions and actions in a variety of environments, as well as the ability to create and work toward personal goals.
- Social awareness – the ability to see from other people’s perspectives and have empathy for others.
- Relationship skills – allows children to create and maintain health relationships with others.
- Responsible decision making – the ability to make responsible choices and take responsibility for the outcomes, whether the consequences are positive or negative.
Character strengths support six virtues:
- Wisdom – creativity, curiosity, judgement, love of learning, perspective
- Courage – bravery, persistence, honesty, zest
- Humanity – love, kindness, social intelligence
- Justice – teamwork, fairness, leadership
- Moderation – forgiveness, modesty, prudence, self-control
- Transcendence – appreciation of beauty, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality
Schools and youth programs could pay more attention to particular character strengths and an additional goal of education should be to encourage a psychologically healthy life. Many schools take a generalized, one size fits all approach when teaching SEL and/or character strengths instead of tailoring activities on an individual level. Novel experiences, such as art-making and creative movement and/or yoga provide youth with unique experiences that stimulate curiosity and create opportunities for them to practice SEL skills and explore character strengths.
Assess Character Strengths In Your Child
The VIA Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) is a self-report survey suitable for adults ages 18 or older that comprehensively assesses the 24 character strengths. The VIA-IS can be completed in a single session, typically taking about 45-minutes. For children and youth aged 10-17, the VIA Inventory of Strengths for Youth (VIA-Youth) is suitable. Both of these surveys are available online at no cost (www.authentichappiness.org or www.viastrengths.org). Once individuals register on the website and complete the survey, feedback is given about their top strengths, what are called signature strengths.
The mission of Little Sage Yoga is to foster positive development in youth through the arts, performance, yoga, and more. Fall 2022 registration is now open!
Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of college and character, 10(4), 1-10.