Express Yourself – Children’s Mental Health Week
February 2, 2021
What does it mean to express yourself?
Self-expression is about finding ways to explore and express our individual personalities, our passions, the things that drive us and make us unique, whilst also connecting us to like-minded others. It is sharing our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and views of the world through our words, behaviours, and actions and engaging in activities that make us feel good.
This can be more difficult than it sounds as we are often given messages by our family and friends, our communities and through social media, about how we ‘should’ look, think, speak, and behave. This means it can be difficult to let go of expectations and express our true selves but being able to do this is very important for our wellbeing and mental health, especially when we face difficult times.
Given the experiences that we have all been through over this past year, which is likely to have brought about a multitude of feelings, it is more important than ever to find healthy and enjoyable ways to express ourselves that help to lift our mood and make us feel good.
So why is self-expression important?
In children, being able to express themselves freely and in a safe environment is very important for their development so that they may grow up trusting that they can open up to others; that their opinions, ideas, wishes and feelings are important and will be valued.
Throughout our lives, engaging in activities that we love and being heard and understood by others is very important for the development and growth of confidence and self-esteem:
- It provides enjoyable challenges and excitement, boosting feelings of achievement and self-worth, and giving us purpose and meaning.
- It helps us to connect to others and find a place of belonging by discovering that we are not alone in our thoughts and feelings and that we share interests and passions.
- It also allows us to ‘let off steam,’ to relax and de-stress and boosts ‘feel-good’ endorphins that lift our mood.
How do we express ourselves?
There are countless ways to express yourself, it’s about finding the right outlet for you that makes you feel good, allows you to get your point of view across and show your true self.
Maybe you love to be creative, to draw or paint, play music, write poetry, or have an interest in fashion, or digital media. Perhaps you feel happiest when being active, taking part in sport or outdoor activities. Perhaps cooking, baking, or gardening are more your style. Whatever your passions, making time for them in your daily life is an important part of expressing yourself.
It’s really important to remember that expressing yourself doesn’t mean that you have to be the best at something or that you have to put on a performance for others, it’s really about finding ways to show who you are, and that help you to feel good about yourself.
Tips for encouraging self-expression in children
Children express themselves all the time and not necessarily with words! It’s important to ‘listen’ to everything they’re telling you, paying attention to their behaviour, their play and creativity, even their silence, it’s all self-expression.
- Create a culture of regularly talking as a family and having conversations about feelings, good and bad.
- Be curious about your child’s emotions and help them to develop the language to describe them.
- Listening carefully helps children to feel confident in sharing their thoughts and expressing themselves. Try to minimise distractions and give your full attention when spending time together.
- Be aware of your own body language and eye contact, summarise what they’re sharing with you to show you understand and acknowledge their feelings.
- Show interest in their passions and interests and encourage them to share them with you.
- Build on existing interests, encouraging them to take part in activities that support these, and give praise for their efforts.
- Encourage trying new activities to find new and creative outlets and hobbies and to connect with others.
- Give your child the freedom to express their true self, not what is expected; allow them to make choices in their daily lives, let them go to the supermarket dressed as spiderman, or paint their bedroom that wacky colour!