(BPT) – The tween years can be incredibly tough to navigate. Between trying to figure out their passions, building friendships and keeping up with the demands of school, many self-discoveries happen. Research suggests that it takes time and exploration for tweens to find their identity and discover their passions, but that can be confusing and come with a lot of pressure.
Help your tween explore their creative pursuits by giving them outlets and the support to try, fail, learn and discover. With kids headed back to school, your family’s schedule can easily start to feel hectic. Being purposeful about integrating moments of creativity can help your tween discover what gets them excited, even in the little pockets of time you have with them.
Below are a few tips to help encourage your tween to think and act creatively this school year.
1. Make the kitchen into a screen-free zone
Every parent knows their kids’ first stop as soon as they get home from school will be the kitchen. Why not make yours a screen-free zone? That way, when your kids grab a snack, there’s greater room for open-minded thoughts, free of distraction. To remind and encourage your children, have a basket near the entrance to the kitchen where everyone can put their phones and other devices.
2. Be their confidence coach
Role model the self-talk you want to see in your tween. Normalize mistakes and help them to overcome the fear of failure by instilling confidence-building mantras (even if they don’t realize they’re mantras) like “you can do hard things” into your everyday language. Share the challenges of your day and how you managed them, demonstrating how overcoming small and big tests is something we all can do.
3. Encourage inventiveness in the kitchen
Stock your fridge with grab-and-go snacks that can mix and match with anything. Frigo Cheese Heads string cheese is the perfect canvas to pair with deli meat, fruits, nuts, spreads/sauces, pickles, pretzels, crackers and more.
Tween years are typically when children become more curious and comfortable trying new things. Take advantage of this curiosity by trying new flavors and finding favorites together to help create common interests and encourage creativity in and outside the kitchen.
4. Give them a ‘yes day’
Like the notable movie, carve out a day where your tween gets to dictate which creative-focused activities you do. A water balloon fight in the winter, a trip to a theme park, a concert that starts at 10 p.m. — it’s all fair game and can help open their world to new possibilities for their future.
5. Let them answer first
If a problem arises that affects both of you, give your child the chance to weigh in first with a potential solution. Got turned around on a hike? Let them think through the best way out. Rip in their favorite jeans? Let them brainstorm creative fixes or research how to sew them.
6. Create challenges that get them thinking
Fuel their creativity by putting them up to unexpected challenges with a time limit: Create a unique creature out of folding a piece of paper, see who can get through a scooter course the fastest or make up the silliest new lyrics to a favorite song. Use everyday moments like a snack in the car to double as creative inspiration. Challenge your tween to create a one-of-a-kind Cheese Heads character while they devour their string cheese on the way to practice.
7. Let them take a few risks
Allow your tweens the space to take moderate risks that get them out of their comfort zone. Let them sign up for an activity they’ve not yet tried, just to give it a shot. Show trust in their judgment by saying “yes” to things you wouldn’t have when they were younger, like snowboarding or going to the park with friends alone. Encouraging independent thinking in small ways helps build confidence and allows space for creative thinking.
8. Give their room a decor update
As your tween edges closer to their teen years, an upgrade to their room’s style may be in order as they transition from more adolescent colors and interests into more mature preferences. Let them dictate the style and work together to paint, curate and organize.
Lastly, sometimes the best thing you can do is to let them have space and time to figure out what they enjoy the most, what makes them happy and where their passions lie. If you foster an environment of open dialogue, they’ll share some updates when they’re ready. With these tips, you’re providing your child opportunities to explore and learn more about themselves with you as their guide through the challenges of building a strong self-identity in the tween years. Good luck!