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When talking about strong kids, I’m not referring to their physical condition. I’m talking about inner strength, known as resilience.

Resilience is the word used to describe coping skills – people’s ability to bounce back from adversity.

As it’s impossible to avoid challenges in life, the only way to survive is to learn how to cope with them.

Those who don’t, end up with a whole set of new problems. Ones that could possibly have been avoided if they were more resilient.

Fortunately, resilience is something that can be nurtured in children and one of the many helpful tools to do this is art.

RESILIENCE AND RAISING STRONG KIDS

Simply put, resilience is the ‘capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness’.

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There is much more to it though.

How do you spot a resilient kid? Look for these characteristics.

  • Braver
  • More curious
  • More adventurous
  • More adaptable
  • Self-regulators
  • Optimistic
  • Empathic
  • More confident
  • More self-aware

These are all vital traits to help navigate the rocky teenage years and the unavoidable challenges that adulthood offers.

When nurtured from a young age, these traits help children cope with all kinds if stress, including starting school, changing schools, relationship issues, bullying, and financial and family issues.

Genes play a small part in determining how resilient a person is. Environment plays a huge part.

We can nurture resilience and raise strong kids in a variety of ways, including building strong bonds with them, being positive role models, offering them opportunities to learn and try new things and teaching them to be aware of their emotions and to practice re-thinking when necessary.

ART’S ROLE IN HELPING TO RAISE STRONG KIDS

Encouraging children to participate in art projects is a wonderful way to nurture resilience and raise strong kids.

Art offers challenges, rewards, opportunities to be adventurous and take safe risks and a way to identify and express feelings.

It teaches them self-regulation, empathy, adaptability and gives them confidence.

HERE’S HOW ART HELPS TO RAISE STRONG KIDS

Creating art never ceases to be challenging, even for the most well-known and admired artists. For young kids, the challenges include:

Learning to cope

When their creation doesn’t turn out as planned and they feel disappointed. This is a great opportunity for the adult around them to guide them into re-thinking. Have the child focus on what is RIGHT about their creation and encourage them to come up with ways to expand on that. Ask them to think of ways they can transform the parts of their creation they are not pleased with. Maybe they’ll turn it into something completely different. Creative thinking at its best.

Patience

Things like paint, glue and clay need time to dry. Those who aren’t prepared to wait, risk destroying their creation.

Self-Regulation

Learning when to stop adding paint or glue or another material so as not to destroy their work.

Empathy

Their own challenges equip them with an understanding of how others feel when they are facing challenges.

Risk Taking/adventurous

Using a variety of materials encourages curiosity and a sense of discovery – what will happen if I mix this colour with that one? What will happen if I mix this with glue? Not all of their experiments will work out, but if the adult around them focuses on their bravery for trying and the fun of discovering things for yourself rather than the outcome, they are encouraged to try more.

Adaptability

Learning to adapt when things don’t turn out as planned or if a specific material to create something is not available.

Identify and express feelings

Art therapy is now a recognised mental health profession. And for good reason. Art allows people to express themselves in a way they may not be able to verbally. It helps them identify and then express their feelings, which is the first steps towards learning how to manage them. People do NOT have to wait until they are having mental health issue to benefit from art therapy. It can be an excellent preventative tool. Used with children, it can promote resilience to raise strong kids.

Rewards

All of the above are rewards of a kind but perhaps the biggest rewards that creating art offers are the confidence and self-esteem it promotes. The joy and pride expressed on children’s faces when they have created something they are happy with is possibly the most beautiful art in the world. Every success helps to gain their self-confidence and the practical skills that go with creating art gain them confidence in other areas of life. Several of the parents of my Wacky Workshops students have mentioned how the art classes have helped their children perform other tasks, such as writing, scissor skills, colour management, imagination and storytelling.

Another huge reward, when done in the right environment, as the opportunity to ‘switch off’ for a while. Kids are bombarded with information and are constantly taking things in. Free form art, that is not overly directed, offers them the chance to rest their brains and just relax.

FUN EXERCISES THAT USE ART TO HELP RAISE STRONG KIDS

TO TEACH PATIENCE

strong kids picture

Offer projects that cannot be completed in one sitting, such as papier mache, clay play, paintings that require different layers of paint and things, such as mosaic, that require dry time.

Paper mosaic, dot painting and beading activities help to promote patience and focus as the child is required to do a repetitive task before they can see the finished creation.

TO TEACH SELF REGULATION

I’m a big believer in colouring outside the lines. I like to leave the ‘colour within the lines’ teaching to mainstream schools.

That being said, sometimes we need to set a few artistic rules to promote self-regulation. Young children, in particular, need opportunities to learn when to stop – even when they are really enjoying a task.

I often see students ruining a masterpiece because they become so absorbed in the act of painting. Sometimes, this is not such a bad thing – they are learning to cope with disappointment and discovering the results of not self-regulating. Both important lessons.

However, if they are painting on special material, such as a canvas, or painting something to give as a gift, I step in and stop them before the picture is lost.

TO TEACH SAFE RISK TAKING

If the student isn’t creating for a special occasion, or using expensive materials, then I really encourage risk taking.

I usually do this by asking questions such as; “What do you think will happen if you mix this with that?” or “Do you think this sculpture will hold together with this glue?”

Then I encourage them find out.

Often, especially with the young kids, their colour mixes end up an ugly brown. That’s fine. They’ve learned that adding too many colours has this result and they’ve had fun experimenting.

Sometimes, their lovely sculptures will fall apart because they’ve only used glue sticks when stronger glue was required. Again, they are learning important lessons here.

When they are disappointed with the result of the experiment, I focus on how great it is they worked these things out for themselves. Then we talk about how we can do things differently to discover different outcomes, which in turn promotes adaptability.

TO IDENTIFY AND EXPRESS FEELINGS

 It’s so important to help kids identify their various feelings and to have them validated. While we want to promote optimism, kids need to know that what they feel is valid and OK. Then we can show them how to manage those feelings and move towards optimism.

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Emotions painted by a Wacky Workshops student.

At some stage during their art course, I’ll ask my private students to paint emotions. We usually go through sad, nervous and confused, scared and, of course, happy.

The paintings can be abstract or represent activities and situations. I avoid offering any prompts regarding shapes and colours.

When the student is finished, we discuss the shapes and colours used and what prompted them to express the emotions in that way.

I like to end these classes by having the student paint or draw a picture of themselves doing something they love.

A Body Outline

Another great to help kids express their feelings is to provide them with a simple body outline. Have the child sit quietly for a few moments with their their eyes closed and picture their breath moving in and out of their bodies.

Then, have them paint what they saw – the colour and movement of the breath. Let them expand on the picture, adding what they’d like (most include hearts and facial features).

When they are finished, ask them how the colours they used make them feel and also about the features they added.

This exercise can be followed up by offering the child more outlines and asking them to paint/draw what the breath would look like if they were angry, bored, scared, nervous, sad, happy – whatever.

These are just a few of the ways you can use art to raise strong kids. There are many other things you can add that will only help to nurture your child’s resilience and prepare them for adulthood.

Did you know creating art makes kids smarter too?

Be sure to check The Wacky Workshops Page for details about my art classes.

Here’s to strong kids and a gleeful week, Tamuria.