I recommend reading the book: What Teens Need to Succeed: Proven, Practical Ways To Shape Your Own Future, by Peter L. Benson, Judy Galbraith, and Pamela Espeland. It’s written for teens, but great for parents. The edition I read is from 1998, but the information is still just as relevant today.
The basic premise at The Search Institute is that young people need certain developmental assets in their lives to be happy and successful. Seems pretty simple, right? Well, when you read the book (or visit the website: http://www.search-institute.org) you realize how much more can be done in our schools, houses of worship, neighborhoods or even at home to support teens.
The Search Institute Mission: to provide leadership, knowledge, and resources to promote healthy children, youth, and communities.
Asset #17 is participation in creative activities: music, theater, or other arts. They list 15 reasons why you (the teen reading the book) need the arts. Some of the more interesting reasons include numbers 9 and 13: “9) (to)aquire knowledge and meaning you don’t get from other subjects (example: an artist’s interpretation of love, birth, death, or conflict.) and 13) (to) learn ways to cope with the ups and downs of adolescence (the arts give you positive healthy ways to express conflicting emotions and get a grip.).”
The book also provides practical ways for teens to shape what they want in their lives. For example, Search encourages teens to “Say yes to lessons.” Specifically, they outline a very practical strategy for teens to use in negotiating that uncomfortable moment (see my post “From Chopsticks to Dylan”) when they’re ready to quit piano lessons. Search recommends: if you want to take something else, ask your parents. If they’re not sure, try negotiating a compromise: “If they’ll pay for this year’s trumpet lessons, you’ll study piano next year – or vice versa.”
So if after reading this, you’re still not sure whether to encourage your teen to participate in creative activities, several tables in the book exclaim that pursuing the arts makes you smarter! “Higher SAT Scores!” should be enough motivation for any skeptic.