Since 2008, more than 80 percent of U.S. school districts have cut art program funds, and 17 percent of U.S. elementary schools no longer offer art as a subject. Instead of being seen as necessary and complementary to math, reading, and science, the arts are framed as nice-to-have but non-essential electives.
Abandoning the arts is extremely short-sighted. It highlights an outdated perception, a gap in knowledge, and an insufficient understanding of how the arts help students succeed in school and long after. Although some educators realize creativity can enhance other subjects, many school administrations have been slow to catch up. Without parents’ efforts, a child might very well have little or no access to the nurturing, resource-giving, and therapeutic powers the arts provide.
Below we explore the ways you can use art at home to help your daughter thrive. But first,
Take the Pressure Off Yourself
- Know that you don’t have to be an artist with skills of any kind to give your child access to the arts.
- You’ll know what kind of art your child connects with by how immersed they become in their painting, poem, dance, song, or performance.
- Break your mental models. Art includes the above activities but is not limited to them. Art is the act of creation. Any form of making, visible or not, trendy or not, is art.
- Art is exploration. Engaging in art with your daughter will require the suspension of your role as an adult. In other words, this should be fun. There are no goals, grades, or rush to complete projects.
Art as Therapy
Creating and viewing art have longstanding applications in psychotherapy as tools for integrating difficult experiences, safe self-expression, and identity exploration. Whether your child is a youngster struggling to navigate and release big emotions or a pre-teen facing new hormonal tides, home-based art exploration can offer deep solace and safety.
Here are examples of how art can act as therapy:
- You can model to your daughter how to release emotion. The next time you’re angry, explain to her what’s happening inside you, choose an appropriate song, and move your body. Move what you’re feeling.
- Or facilitate the use of clay, paints, or crayons to explore and express inner feelings, rather than allowing them to explode externally. A subtle prompt of “let’s draw how we feel in our stomachs about that” and then making time to have a quiet, private moment of reflection can be very effective.
- Allow your daughter to explain her art…if she wants to. Don’t force her to and refrain from commenting or critiquing. This action is process-driven, not outcomes-based.
Art as Identity Exploration
Remember being a teenager? Rife with angst, confusion, and need for exploration. It’s easy to forget our past experiences when our teenage daughter acts out and tests us.
Teenagers spend their waking time and energy trying to figure out who they are, desperate to find out if and where they fit in. Art offers a significant gateway into self-exploration through expression.
Investigate which forms of artistic expression resonate with your daughter. Schedule time each week for her to lean into her inner self through the lens of free creativity. The action could be creating a quiet corner in your home where she can sit, undisturbed, and knead her tears into clay. Or family Friday nights of dancing and howling in the garden under the stars to a collaborative playlist.
Explore what works for your family dynamic. Don’t force other’s ideas of how activities should unfold. Foster what’s already there. If you’re a quiet, bookworm bunch, perhaps leaving a bright stack of art books in the living room is enough of a start.
And don’t forget art can also be simply fun. Artistic pursuits bring us into the present with loved ones. How about a family drawing activity next weekend?
Looking ahead, if your daughter is someone with artistic skill, vision, and drive, you may feel nervous about supporting an education trajectory that leans into the arts. Have no fear! In 2020, creativity was identified by LinkedIn as the number one soft skill companies need most. Moreover, the World Economic Forum says creativity, analytical thinking, and flexibility are among the top skills needed in 2025. So don’t shy away from supporting and encouraging the artistic passions of your young creator.
Written by Roxana Bouwer
Top photo by Zaur Giyasov on Unsplash
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