How to Help Your Creative Child Survive High School and College
I was born a sensitive, INFJ, artistic weirdo. I didn’t play with dolls, I had a bag of plastic trumpets that I pretended to play (no one ever bought me a real trumpet, but it was probably for the best given how annoying I was with the fake ones).
Elementary school was a blur. I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and that kind of engulfed most of my k-5 years. Middle school was an absolute nightmare. I hated every second of it, to the point of feeling suicidal most days. I loved singing, but I didn’t join the choir because you could either be in band or choir, but not both. My parents had saved and bought me a flute in elementary school, and even though I was terrible at it, they made me stick with it in middle school. I continued to be terrible at it. I tried out for the school talent show and was publicly humiliated.
High school was much better. I made friends who are still good friends today. I was in choir and theater. However, my choir teacher was not my favorite and had awful teaching methods. All in all, I enjoyed high school but mostly because it was so much better than middle school.
In college I was a mess. I knew I wanted to pursue my passion of music, but I had no idea how. My dad insisted that I get a business degree because it would be more lucrative. I’m glad he pushed me to that, because I do think it has helped me in my session singing business. However, I put my music dreams to the side during that time and felt depressed and unfulfilled.
So, if you’re a parent with a creative child, how can you help them navigate school? I’ll give you some tips I wish someone had given my guardians. Hopefully it will help you and your creative kids!
Helping A Creative Child
Creative children are sensitive, emotive and deep. They feel every emotion strongly and while this can help fuel their art, it can also drive themselves (and you) a little nuts. I’m going to give just a few tips to help you both overcome this difficult time.
Please note: I am not speaking as a psychologist, a teacher, or any other “expert” other than the fact that I was this exact child. These are tips I wish my guardians had, so I’m hoping that by sharing them with you, they’ll help you and your kids!
1). Encourage Their Creative Expression
Obviously they’ll need to do it safely and make sure they aren’t neglecting other duties, but refusing to let a child create is devastating to them. I have to be careful about what I write on this blog, but one of the adults in my life would throw an absolute fit whenever I made noise. This meant I rarely had the chance to listen to music or sing. I know it can be annoying if your child makes a lot of noise, but maybe set aside dedicated practice times or consider making them a practice booth? Many children hate practice time and have to be forced to do it. If you have a child who is so passionate about their craft that they never want to stop, this is a good thing! Just make sure they do it in moderation and get good sleep.
2). Help Them Become More Involved
I was so grateful to join the many choirs I was in during high school, as well as the drama club. Those outlets were therapeutic and definitely helped me as an adult also. The more your child can get involved in these things, the better. You may have issues with transportation or scheduling, but if there’s any way to make it happen (have them hitch rides with friends, see if there is a later bus, etc) I strongly encourage you to get them as involved as possible.
3). Support Things They Aren’t Good At
Maybe your kid wants to be the next Kelly Clarkson. Maybe she is not a strong singer, and everyone can hear that but her. I still recommend supporting her love of singing, because it has proven health benefits and if it makes her happy, she should keep doing it. Try vocal lessons and see if things improve at all. This would be another situation where maybe a practice booth would come in handy! However, while we’re on this topic, it’s important to address another issue:
4). Steer Them Toward Their Strong Suits
If your kid doesn’t have a chance at being a famous singer, you don’t want them to audition for a show and be embarrassed on national TV. This is one situation where you’ll want to walk a fine line between being supportive, but also realistic. You might love that your child is artistic, but they might be terrible at it. It happens. That’s how so many people are humiliated on American Idol: Their families don’t want to hurt their feelings. I’m not saying you should tell your child they suck, but perhaps gently steering them toward something they’re better at would be a good idea.
5). Support Their Life Path
Different families have different opinions on pursuing the arts, and unfortunately many families won’t even allow their children to consider the arts as an option. Most of my high school theater friends, myself included, have good jobs in the entertainment industry. Granted, none of us are famous actors or singers, but we’re all working full time and loving every minute of our work. Too many parents seem to think that your only options as a musician are “Lady Gaga-Level of Famous” or “Homeless Meth Dealer,” and really there are so many wonderful opportunities that come from exploring your passion.
6). Encourage Their Art as an Outlet For Their Emotions
Like I said, creatives are an emotional bunch. We feel things deeply. Things that seem minor to others could destroy your child’s week or month. This is the perfect time to encourage a healthy outlet by working on their craft. Even if they aren’t good at it, finding a healthy release is so important.
7). Watch For Warning Signs of Serious Depression
This applies to ALL children, but again, I feel like creative kids tend to be a little more sensitive. It’s also easy to assume that a creative child is just being dramatic, when things might be a lot worse. One of the best things you can do for a child is provide a listening ear or a counselor. I had neither of those and I would have had a much better middle school experience with one!
Again, I need to state that I am not a psychologist! Please take your child to one if you feel it’s needed. Hopefully these tips from a former creative high-schooler will help you and your wonderful, sensitive, creative child navigate through school!