Turn to the Arts to Boost Self Esteem
By Cheryl Lock, ArtsEdge.org
A girl paintingAs parents, you do everything to help your child navigate through the ups and downs of childhood and survive with self-esteem. You praise his every accomplishment. “You tied your shoe!” “You finished that book!” “You made your bed!” You encourage him to make friends with other children who support him and have similar interests. You probably even sign him up for after-school activities to keep him physically active. You might register him for music or dance lessons and listen to endless recitations of his part in the school’s play. And all of this is great—essential, even.
But did you know that activities, especially arts-related activities, are important for so much more than just keeping your child busy? They’ve been proven to boost a child’s self-image.
Whether in an individual setting or as part of a group, arts education improves a child’s confidence. For example, studies have shown that when children participate in art activities with peers, the feedback they give to each other builds self-respect by helping them learn to accept criticism and praise from others. And that’s not the only way it can improve self-esteem, though. Here are five other ways the arts help your child on the road to a better sense of self.
The arts instill pride. When your child puts his heart and soul into an art project—and spends hours working on it, cultivating it, and making it beautiful—he’ll feel an enormous sense of accomplishment when it’s complete. “The arts are a great leveler, as we are all in the same boat, learning to create and succeed in new and unexpected ways,” says Dory Kanter, an educational consultant and arts/literacy curriculum writer and teaching trainer. “Children not only become appreciators of each other’s work, but also develop skills of self-reflection in the effort to bring their personal vision to fruition.”
The arts help your child develop real-life skills. Depending on the specific arts activity your child chooses to become involved in—whether it’s music, drawing, acting, or dance—he’s sure to learn important real-world skills including critical and creative thinking, hand-eye coordination, motor skills, and social skills like taking turns, sharing, and negotiating. “In my experience, students make a personal connection to a subject through the arts, and as a result, they deepen their thinking through a creative response,” says Kanter. “In addition, students learn persistence and higher level thinking through creative problem solving when given the opportunity to spend time creating a completed, invested work of art.”
The arts lead to higher test scores in the classroom. Self-esteem increases when a child feels confident in the classroom. Skills learned from studying the arts including concentration and dedication, affects classroom values and test scores. In fact, a 2005 Harris Poll found that 93 percent of Americans agreed the arts are vital to providing a well-rounded education for children. In another 2009 study, 12 years of data was collected for the National Educational Longitudinal Survey to look at the effect of education, visual, and performing arts on the achievement and values of children. The study found that students who were highly involved with the arts outperformed less-involved peers, even within low socioeconomic groups. Music, in particular, helps provide children with improved classroom skills, including critical thinking, creative problem solving, team work, and effective communication.
The arts increase opportunities for self-expression. Another benefit of arts education is giving children a way to express themselves, especially in a classroom setting. When students are working towards a common goal, they appreciate that their “voice” and interests are heard and understood by others. This joint effort creates a sense of secure acceptance that is critical to their self-esteem.
The arts increase an individual’s sense of belonging or attachment to a community. Community art programs help introduce your child to new people and experiences. This attachment encourages your child to engage in social and creative activities while feeling part of a larger community. Your child will learn about trust and develop interpersonal skills and friendships.
Arts-related study, no matter the art, is critical to building a child’s self-esteem—whether in a studio, classroom, or playground. Speak with your child. Learn more about their creative interests and provide the resources and opportunities for them to grow and thrive.
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