We all want our children to be resilient, to bounce back from adversity and learn from their mistakes. We want them to be bright, brave and adventurous, to set goals and achieve them. But when setbacks pile up, children can become so anxious that they’re scared to try in case they might fail.
The Belconnen Community Service Bungee Youth Resilience Program uses art to create a safe space where children can build courage and resilience. The skills they learn in Bungee classes help them to feel more confident in the rest of their lives.
Tutors in the program are professional artists and art therapists. We asked them for some tips for building resilience through encouraging and developing your child’s creativity.
All creative arts are about communication
Introduce children and young people to the arts as ways of communicating. Music, story-telling, colours, shapes and lines are all languages. We can learn to speak these languages as well as to read them. The languages of the arts are all fantastic for communicating about strong and complex emotional states.
Help them but don’t do it for them
Children need to feel safe when they try new things or have a go at something that hasn't gone well in the past. So when embarking on a creative project, help them but don't do it for them. They need lots of encouragement; absolutely no negative comments. Support them to overcome obstacles and persevere to complete projects.
Exhale – don’t hold it all in
If you keep breathing in but never breathe out, you’ll soon feel like you’re suffocating. You’re desperately trying to take in more air but you’re already full. What you need to do is exhale and make some room. Then inhaling will be easy.
This can be a good metaphor for life. Often young people can be desperately trying to take everything in and make sense of it. Lessons at school; social lessons in the playground and online spaces; and a myriad of confronting events all over the world can make them feel overwhelmed and suffocated.
Creating art can be like exhaling. Making music, drama or visual art, or even just talking and expressing themselves creatively and passionately can clear their head and make some room to find strengths they never thought they had.
Being prepared to take risks is vital to creating good art. It’s also an essential part of living a good life. Attempting to do something that you never thought you could do is scary, but learning new skills is uplifting and rewarding.
Encourage your child to try new techniques and approaches. This can apply to any form of creativity. If they usually draw on a small scale, encourage them to make something bigger and more freeform. If they usually read music, suggest that they learn to play a favourite piece from memory. Whenever we take risks, we learn. When we fail and try again, we are bouncing back and being resilient.
Share your own stories
Creative projects can be challenging and things don’t always turn out the way we plan them. Children need to be listened to and feel that they’re understood, but you don’t have to solve their problems for them. You can show that you understand by sharing your own stories. Children often feel like they’re the only ones going through problems. Help them to understand that they’re not alone and that it’s ok to not have all the answers all the time.
Enrol in the Bungee Program
This article appeared in ParentACTion, Term 3, 2017.