“For a child, creative expression is one of the most natural things in the world,” says Sidra Medicine doctor
A child’s mind is like a blank canvas, with childhood experiences playing an integral role in shaping future behaviors. And it is for this reason that young people should be encouraged to express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions freely from an early age to build happy, confident, and independent adults.
Dr. Ahsan Nazeer, Division Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Sidra Medicine and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar, explains why it is crucial for parents and society to encourage young children to express themselves in a secure environment.
“For a child, creative expression is one of the most natural things in the world. They are born curious, eager to discover and explore their environment, and they do this naturally through self-expression,” Dr. Nazeer says.
Promoting and encouraging self-expression in children can reflect positively on their development at different levels
“In this context, promoting and encouraging self-expression in children can reflect positively on their development at different levels. Intellectually, it improves cognitive skills like language proficiency, independent thinking, and problem-solving.
“Emotionally, it builds a child’s emotional development, helping children communicate their feelings and learn how to deal with them appropriately.
“Physically, working with materials such as paints, clay, and glue encourages the development of fine motor skills, boosts hand-eye coordination, and aids muscle development.
“And socially, it promotes social development and interaction, helping children learn about teamwork and consideration for others.”
Children who do not grow up in an environment of respect, love, and compassion can experience different mental and emotional difficulties
On the other hand, according to Dr. Nazeer, children who do not grow up in an environment of respect, love, and compassion can experience different mental and emotional difficulties. They can develop low self-esteem, and become depressed and dependent on others to make decisions for them, which hinders the development of their personalities and can affect the chance of leading a fulfilling life.
Dr. Mohamed Al Breiki, a Fellow in Child and Adolescent Mental Health at Sidra Medicine – a member of Qatar Foundation – believes that it can be challenging sometimes for parents to recognize the difference between teaching discipline and allowing self-expression. However, it is important to set reasonable boundaries and rules for fundamental developmental needs.
Taking an honest assessment of your parenting style is not an easy task; however, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect is generally considered “bad” parenting by any standard
“Taking an honest assessment of your parenting style is not an easy task; however, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect is generally considered “bad” parenting by any standard. If, as a parent, you are engaging in these behaviors, then it is advisable to seek professional help, so that you can recognize it and take steps to change it,” says Dr. Al Breiki.
Parents should be aware of the consequences of the unfair or needless use of power that a family may use to control a child, he add, which may result oppression in some cases, and can materialize in different ways in a child’s life.
“In some children, symptoms of oppression show as frequent physical complaints like headaches, nausea, and abdominal pains. For others, it might be severe enough to show failure in attaining significant developmental milestones, which leads to developmental gaps as well as learning difficulties.
“Symptoms of low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, withdrawal, or even aggression might be also present. In extreme situations it might leads to self-harming behavior, suicide attempts, or engaging in drug or alcohol abuse.”
Parents should help their children speak about their needs as well as offer comfort and reassurance to boost their self-esteem, and teaching parents healthy parenting strategies leads to stronger bonds within the family. In order to achieve this, it may be important to consider additional support through counseling or other mental health interventions.
Speaking of the how parents can encourage self-expression in their children, Dr. Nazeer highlights the importance of art, listing drawing, dancing, theater, sculpture, and music as tools that can be employed.
“Encourage style uniqueness,” he adds. “Explain that everyone has their own way of expressing themselves, and allow them to use fashion, for example, as a means to do so.
“Let them choose their own interests, and – to an extent – give them the freedom to make their own choices. This concept could be introduced through picking the bedtime story or toy for play time.
“Also help them to talk about their emotions, which is something that can be done through discussing parent’s self-emotions, like when we feel sad, mad, or happy.”