Creativity and Emotional Safety

We know it’s important to foster creativity in our child’s life and we know that “stepping back” and getting out of her way is an important part of the process. But there are also things we need to actively do to facilitate that process. Creating an environment that is safe is one of the legs of this four-legged stool called individual creativity.
We’re all familiar with the more tangible aspects of safety for our children. We teach them to “stop, look and listen” before crossing the street. We teach them about stoves that are hot and knives that are sharp and drugs that will ruin their lives. These are all factors that are crucial to their physical safety.
But there is another type of safety that we need to also provide called psychological safety. Without that, creativity cannot flourish. In order for psychological safety to develop, children and adults need to feel safe, and the following are necessary ingredients.
• absence of judgment or criticism
• acceptance of any and all emotions
• communicating that you’re “there” for the child.
Let’s look at what those mean. Judgment: Most of us have been know to say things like, “I can’t draw a straight line,” or “I can’t carry a tune.” These are judgment statement. Perhaps they are true–not all of us are creative in the same way, but when little children begin to sing or dance or draw or build, or make up stories, they need to be free of an adult’s evaluation. External evaluation stops creativity.
Accepting emotions: Emotions are the well-spring of creativity. It is also true that emotions simply are. They are neither good nor bad. Behaviors, on the other hand, do have value judgments connected with them. We help our children and foster their creativity when we teach them to separate feelings from behavior. “I see you’re really angry. You may not hit your brother but you may (tell me about it,stomp your feet, paint those feelings, etc.) I have a wonderful picture, done by a nine-year-old of “flames of fire” his feelings at an intense moment.
Being there for the child sends the message that he is safe because you “have his back”. And what better feeling can there be than that!

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