Welcome to Chapter 6 of Gloria DeGaetano’s book “Parenting Well in a Media Age”. This chapter covers the fourth essential need of the vital five, that being CREATIVE EXPRESSION.

In this intriguing chapter, the author highlights the need “to see creative expression as a basic human need” and examines how our creativity can become dampened in this media / industry-generated culture where we can be made to feel that our small creations are seemingly insignificant as compared to the mass displays of creative output everywhere.

The author does make it clear that as much as we are surrounded by creativity and productivity she makes the distinction between mass-generated creativity and what she calls “commonplace creativity”. It is this commonplace creativity that she believes children today seem to be short changed of. How often do we hear of children today having hobbies such as bird watching, stamp collecting, sewing, knitting, drawing, woodwork, pressing wildflowers or painting?

Children today spend much of their free time in front of screens, many of them playing non-creative games which is often their sole hobby. When our children spend time on screens we need to see that time as being time not spent doing other things, namely, the small creative acts that might inspire them, make them feel alive and connected to life.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein

DeGaetano believes that parents have an important role to play in helping children develop their creative expression. First and foremost, children need to value their creative expression, they need to be able to think outside the box, be able to generate alternatives and be confident to stand behind their creations and believe in them. On pages 164 and 165 she gives some useful examples of encouraging statements that can be used to help foster creativity in your children and the sense of value that it brings to them. I have included a few of them here to give you an idea:

“Remember when you thought you couldn’t do________________, but you did! Look what you created, you are a wonderful creator, never forget that”

“I like that idea. It really shows that you are using your creativity”

“You are looking at this situation in a fresh light. Aren’t you proud of how you can see different alternatives?”

The author suggests that another way to help your children and teens value their creative expression is by encouraging these four components of creativity as researched by E.Paul Torrance:

Children need to be able to come up with lots of ideas in a short amount of time, the first component, known as FLUENCY. This can be achieved by brainstorming activities and remaining appropriately inquiring and curious. They also need to be able to see various perspectives and not simply stick to the only way they know. This second component is known as FLEXIBILITY and asking your children “What if……” type of inquiries stimulates this. They also need to be able to think in unique ways, come up with something different, known as ORIGINALITY, the third component. The last component is being able to ELABORATE which is the ability to add the details to make sure their creation is exactly the one they intended to create: to really make it theirs.

Most of us will probably be able to recall an occasion where we have lost ourselves in the process of creating something, where time flies and you just don’t know where the hours went. It is during these times that we often lose consciousness of time yet at the same time are deep in the flow of being so consciously involved in something. Concentration is of course a pre-requisite to being able to lose yourself in a creative act. The author does go on to say that children have to be able to concentrate for long enough in order to get into “the zone” and that many children today, for a variety of reasons, lack the ability to concentrate. On page 173 she highlights some key strategies in helping kids of any age increase their capacity of concentration, the main ones being to minimize distractions and to consider setting limits around the amount of time spent playing video games, on Gameboys in particular.

In Chapters 4 and 5, the author discussed the importance of an inner life and image making and finding enough quiet time to dream, create, reflect and just be and she integrates these concepts to this chapter beautifully.

“The first stage of any creative process is an incubation stage. Time to reflect is critical” – Gloria deGaetano.

It is important to remember that tiredness and stress can negatively affect the brain from being able to functioning at optimum levels. We need a certain amount of challenge to stimulate and inspire us accompanied with a feeling of safety, self-assurance and being totally present in order to induce peak performance. DeGaetano lists four things which you can do to promote this state of “relaxed alertness” in your children:

  • See the whole child, with all her strengths and talents especially when she is trying your patience or doing something contrary to what you expect
  • Try to provide some decompression time before having to complete a challenging task
  • Help your child with managing her schedules and completing tasks on time
  • Encourage creative activities, provide the space for them to do so, make the process as easy as possible for them and experiment with their inherent curiosity

DeGaetano concludes this chapter with an invitation to parents to see parenting as a continual creative process, constantly evolving and coming up with better ways of guiding and helping our kids and helping them guide and help themselves emerging as a result.

“If we approach parenting as an art form, we can counteract the industry-generated culture that often ‘distorts a child’s view of creation” – Gloria DeGaetano.

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