In today’s world it’s so hard for kids to just be themselves. They are nearly suffocated by peer pressure and media messages that tell them to conform if they want to be liked and popular. In order to fit in, kids are often willing to sacrifice their own personal tastes. From clothes to hairstyles to activities—most kids will try to “fit-in.”
This is a very unhealthy pattern that can have long-term negative effects well into adulthood including:
- Low self-esteem
Kids who do not express themselves, and are instead people-pleasers, grow up into unhappy adults who never really reach their unique potential. This is why it is so important that kids learn as early as possible that being themselves is what life is all about. Teaching kids how to express themselves needs to happen as early in life as possible—before the peer-pressure at school and from the media really kick in.
Learning how to express themselves, who they really are, is critical to kid’s mental, social, and emotional growth by:
- Building their self-confidence
- Developing smart, independent thinking
- Fostering creativity and ingenuity
- Encouraging them to protect and advocate for themselves
As a parent or teacher, you can be instrumental in setting kids up for success by encouraging them to express themselves. Here are some simple ideas that can have big impact.
Teach kids how to express themselves in the arts. Use art forms to give kids a healthy way to express emotions like sadness, anger, aggression, happiness and excitement. Every kid is unique so look for ways to foster the artistic expression that’s already within them. Outlets include drawing, music, dance, martial arts, theater, sculpture and even crafts.
Encourage kids to have their own style. Even toddlers can be given the opportunity to pick out their own clothes—sure, they might come up with some funny, mis-matched outfits, but this is a great way to help them think independently and develop their own style. As kids get older, let them pick out their own clothes, backpacks and school supplies. The key is exposing them to a great selection. For example, let them choose from backpacks galore on Personal Creations to really express their personal style.
Let kids explore their interests. Listen to what kids say interests them and allow them to explore those things. Don’t just pick clubs, camps and activities for them—let them self-direct their activities based on their interests. There are camps and classes for just about every interest you can imagine including pottery, robotics, chess, lego mindstorms, sports, art and academics. Let kids really chase after their interests and dreams with bug collecting sets, fashion design kits, craft supplies and how-to books.
Give them choices. Age appropriate choices are the key to teaching kids how to express themselves. For younger children it can be as simple as letting them pick the books you read for story time. For older kids, it can be choosing the weekend family activity or decorating their own room. Teachers can encourage kids to participate in shaping their learning by letting them suggest projects and experiments that interest them.
Teaching kids how to express themselves is one of the most important life skills you can give them. As Katy Perry so rightly says, “Be yourself and you can be anything.” When kids feel comfortable expressing who they are, they can make their dreams come true!