These days, it’s more difficult for kids than ever to figure out how to be your authentic self. With so many social media sites and images of beauty surrounding us on a daily basis, it’s easy for children and young adults to fall prey to the notion of what it means to be beautiful or funny or interesting. When we’re bombarded with images of who we should be, it makes it much more difficult to understand who we actually are, which is why self-expression should be taught at a young age. It can boost confidence and make for a stronger, independent leader later in life. Self-expression can manifest in artistic ways by doing projects like diamond art kits or drawing, but it also comes from being confident in your own style and thoughts. Here are some ways to help your kids express themselves.
1) Start a Journal Together
Journaling is something that everyone should do because it’s a therapeutic method of releasing your thoughts and working through your emotions. As your brain puts words to paper, it’s actually reflecting on your thoughts and drawing conclusions about a scenario. Of course, as a young child, journaling is much more elementary, but it can be the basis for teaching children how to express their feelings. Maybe someone said something means at school, or maybe your child did something great at school and received praise. Writing down these feelings and working through problems can improve critical thinking and decision making skills. Journaling may also help children understand subjects they may be struggling with academically.
2) Use Art as a Means of Expression
Art is one of the most obvious activities, aside from writing, that helps us express ourselves creatively. Learning different types of art also helps with children’s mental development, encourages creativity, and celebrates diversity. Try picking one at least one day a week when you and your child focus on creating something artistic like a diamond painting, which uses faceted beads to create a gorgeous mosaic image. Or, you can try other artistic avenues like painting, drawing, or clay molding. Anything that speaks to your child is fair game, so why not give it a try?
3) Encourage Individuality
Part of learning how to express yourself is learning what your style is. Some kids seem to be born with a distinct style, opting for tutu skirts or mismatched outfits before going to the grocery store with their parents. But, for most children, dressing like the other kids around them is a way to feel safe and fit in. It’s important to find a balance between allowing your child to express themselves and merely following the crowd to follow the crowd. Let your child pick out their own clothes while shopping or least point out things that they like so that you can help integrate their own style into their wardrobe without it looking too over the top or nonsensical (like the pajama pants under the princess dress). It’s important to support their taste, even if it’s unusual, to help them understand that individuality is something to admire.
4) Help Them Identify Interests and Explore
Self-expression doesn’t just manifest in our outward appearances and artistic endeavors—it shines through in our hobbies and interests as well. Help your children to find activities that they love and feel fulfilled by, whether it be art, music, sports, writing, or reading. Try out different crafts like diamond painting or other activities and encourage them to speak their mind about what they like and what they don’t.
5) Offer Kids Choices
Sometimes as children are still developing and figuring out how to navigate the world, they aren’t even totally sure of what they want. To help them get to know themselves better, it’s important to give them options. Do you like the green shirt or the red? Do you want to play soccer or try ballet? Posing these types of questions will help them realize their options and what types of things they gravitate towards. Be careful not to push them into boxes with your question, though. Be inclusive and open to different activities and styles that they might enjoy.
6) Expose Them to Many Different Ideas and Activities
On that note, trying new things is an integral part of understanding ourselves. Giving your child options is a great way to begin learning about their interests, but you should be sure that you’re exposing them to many different options. Maybe he or she will be interested in ice skating or hockey even though you may have never tried those sports. The options are limitless. Talk to your child and ask what they would like to do and give it a try. If they don’t end up liking something, then they still learned more about themselves.
7) Demonstrate the Same Behavior
Kids learn how to speak, dress, and behave from the people they interact with daily. If you or others in your family have difficulty expressing yourself, your child may end up mirroring this behavior. Be open with your kid and talk about feelings and emotions, as well as your interests and opinions. For example, maybe your child comes home upset that another kid at school said that yellow, her favorite color, is ugly. Voice your opinion to her and explain that it’s okay to have different views and that yellow is beautiful to her and you. This is just a simple, elementary example, but something to keep in mind as your child continues to grow and face more complicated issues.
Self-Expression Is Self-Love
Teaching your child from an early age how to express themselves emotionally and creatively is extremely important to their development. With so many factors telling us how to act or dress these days, it’s essential to let your child know from an early age that it’s okay to be yourself and have your own interests. You can introduce them to artistic expression through crafts like diamond painting or drawing activities, but be sure to also encourage their own expression through the way that they dress or present themselves. They don’t need to be the person other people want them to be—just be yourself.