As a former elementary teacher and a current counselor, I would venture to say that helping your kid or teen get mentored in their creativity is one of the most beneficial things you can do for them.
Let’s start with the stats:
One study has found that a child who is in a mentoring relationship, is 46% percent more likely than their peers to abstain from illegal drugs, and 27% less likely to start drinking.
Another study has shown that a likely benefit of a child being mentored is a reduction in depressive symptoms.
There is also a high correlation between creativity and an increased aptitude for learning, as well as betterment of overall mental and emotional health.
There’s an obvious reason for these benefits of being mentored and being creative.
We’re wired for it.
Simply put, your brain flourishes when it is in healthy and safe relationships and it grows when you are engaged in creative ventures.
Let’s look at each in turn.
A Mentored Life
The greatest influencer of a child’s growth and development are those they live with. Hands down, a parent or guardian’s consistent love and support is what allows a child to feel safe enough to grow and flourish. When a child grows up in a home that is unpredictable, chaotic, addicted or violent, their brain stays in a constant state of panic and fear, which literally shuts aspects of the brain off as it focuses on survival. A safe environment where a child feels loved and cared for is the baseline for a child’s development.
However, no parent, even the most attentive ones, can give a child everything they need.
As parents, one of the great gifts we can give our children is access to other adults who can love and support them in healthy ways. There are many reasons for this, but suffice it to say that is when we feel seen, known and cared for by adults, we have the internal security to take appropriate risks that promote our growth in relationships and learning. At the end of the day, a kid who has this is more likely to try new things, find new interests, expand their horizons, and eventually be able to have a better understanding of who they are. These kids turn into healthy, whole adults who contribute to the betterment of the world around them.
Mentors help provide the nutrients a child needs in order to live in the fertile soil of love and support. You can never have too many supportive adults in your life, just as a tree never tires of living on the bank of a mineral rich stream.
Without adults to mentor them, kids and teens turn to their peers. We so desperately need to be guided, we’ll even turn to those who are as immature as we are if we don’t find guidance elsewhere. Your kids will find a mentor somewhere, but they’ll have a much better chance of thriving if you help them connect with mature, safe adults.
“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.” Bessel VanDerKolk, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’
The Creative Life
A child or teen is at their best when they are creating something.
Creativity requires the whole brain to be engaged at once. Many folks have put up the myth that we are either ‘left’ or ‘right’ brain beings, but this is simply not true. When you engage in a creative act, which happens primarily when you are in safe and supporting relationships, you are pulling from all the corners of your mind in a way that bridges new connections and builds healthy new ones.
When we engage in creativity and imagination, we develop a stronger sense of ourselves, as well as a more acute understanding of the world around us. Creativity requires that we synthesize our lives and experiences, which grants us the ability to make decisions, solve problems and feel more secure within ourselves.
If being creative on our own is good, then being collaboratively creative with others is exceptional. When we are able to work with others towards a creative and imaginative end, we learn the valuable skills of teamwork, compromise and resolving conflict, but more than that, we experience the deeply gratifying sense that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. We can dream, and not only that, we are instilled with the courage to pursue those dreams.
“Imagination is absolutely critical to the quality of our lives... Imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities—it is an essential launchpad for making our hopes come true. It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, ‘The Body Keeps the Score’
Mentoring their creativity
Having adults in our lives with whom we feel safe and supported, while they encourage and support our creative endeavors, does profound good for our confidence, sense of self, and courage to take risks that lead to further growth. This is like planting a sapling in a green house where it has a steady supply of nutrients, water, sunlight, as well as protection from those things which could cause it harm.
Personally, I have no doubt that had I not had an art teacher in high school who supported, guided and valued me and my work, I could not have made it through the external and internal difficulties I was facing.
Get your kid mentored. Value your child’s creativity. You may not see the good you’re doing for them, but you can have no doubts that you are helping them grow personally and relationally.
Branden Henry is a licensed professional counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist, as well as certified in working with addiction and trauma. He owns and works at Red River Counseling in central Arkansas. For more of his writing, go to www.RedRiverCounseling.net