If you're a parent...

...and you have a creative child, I have a little advice on how not to crush their spirit.

I know, a creative occupation like writer, musician, or artist, strikes fear in your hearts. You don't want your child to starve! You don't want them to try and feel the pain of failure or rejection. And perhaps the biggest fear: you don't want to be housing a 30-year-old in your basement.

Although my parents gave my sisters and I many choices for careers, most of us have ended up turning to the arts anyway. My older sister is a writer, I'm an artist, and my younger sister is dabbling in textile arts; while my youngest sister is the pariah, pursuing communications. Despite their best efforts and advice to study something "practical" in university, we have ended up loving art more than money.

When I have these conversations with my sisters, we all agree that we were encouraged towards the arts rather than away from them. Thanks, parents! We are much happier this way, rather than crammed into a sunless, forsaken cubicle.

Here are some tips on how to not kill the creativity in your child (or anybody who looks up to you.)

1. Supply the supplies

As a young child, I had copious amounts of art and sewing supplies, in effort to keep my little busy-body busy. My mom knew my energy was high and if I wasn't entertained, I would like ruin her walls with my banksy, elusive street-artist ways. I always had enough paint, markers, paper, pencils, fabric, and yarn at my disposal.

2. Encourage the work...but also give constructive criticism when necessary

Maybe your 3-year-old doesn't need to hear a lecture about the "Golden Rule of Thirds," but your 8-year-old might benefit from hearing a watered-down version. Always, always enourage the talent you find. Even if you perceive their efforts to be less-than-skilled, remember that Picasso made himself a household name by realism and abstract shapes pretending to be somebody's face.

3. Pay for the classes

Maybe your child has some untapped potential in oil-painting, or poetry, or pottery - how will you know unless they try it? These activities sometimes need specific training to learn the craft. Go ahead and sign them up for that ballet class. Maybe it's a short-lived passion, but it could be opening up a whole new world of

4. Take them on the field trips

Family fun time can all too often be spent glued to the TV, zoning out in front of the computer, or just wandering the aisles of Target. Hardly any of these things encourage creative thinking. If they attend public school, they might have a regularly scheduled field trip to an art museum, but how much more meaningful is it if their parents took a Saturday to attend a theatre performance together? When you make your extra-curricular activities about thinking outside the box, nothing can stop them.

5. Take the time

This goes hand in hand with the above point. If the schedule is too jam-packed with mindless activities, you end up with a child who feels burdened and stressed. Having time for a creative outlet is relaxing and character-building, but you need to first make time.

What would you add to this list? Have you learned any lasting lessons from what your parents did in encouraging your creative abilities?

Marni Manning - Artist

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