Do you know how to parent your creative kids? Poet Tanner Olson has some advice for you. Learn how to effectively connect, support, and encourage the creativity in your family.
Tanner Olson didn’t think he’d be a poet. Certainly not when he was in middle school or high school. In those classrooms, the mention of poetry or creative writing was met with exhausted sighs and rolled eyes. But Tanner had a different reaction. Something stirred inside him that would eventually lead from a general curiosity to an overwhelming passion.
He had to share.
So, he did. Slowly at first. Tanner had been writing and sharing his work before the rise of poetry communities began to form across social media. Then he self-published a book of poetry. Then another. His early collections quickly led to opportunities to speak around the U.S. in churches, schools, and at live events.
As Tanner’s creative work expanded and developed, so did his audience. Creating a community across platforms, Tanner’s goal has always remained the same. Spreading hope and announcing love, and maybe making you laugh or cry along the way.
What began in his early years as a personal interest has developed into a resounding encouragement for readers and listeners everywhere. Tanner’s encouragement and passion rests in a blend of faith, humor, and curiosity in what he would call the desire to point people toward the ultimate source of hope and love: Jesus.
A Conversation about Creativity, Hope, and Supporting Creative Kids
I got the chance to sit down with Tanner and discuss what makes his writing so unique, his inspiration, and his message for kids with interests in the creative arts. We also discussed how parents can connect with their kids and cultivate an interest in arts like poetry and creative writing.
Maybe you’re a parent who doesn’t always feel like you connect with your child’s interest or hobby. Or maybe your interests align perfectly. Either way, we want to equip you, so you are able to support and encourage your child.
– Editor’s Note
One Voice Can Change Everything
Tanner began writing at a young age. He hasn’t stopped since then. Looking back over his career, Tanner discussed how support and encouragement played important roles in his personal and creative development.
As a parent, you have remarkable influence over your child, especially his or her confidence and self-esteem. Creative pursuits like poetry and writing can be sensitive topics for younger kids. It takes courage to put work into the world. Tanner witnessed this firsthand in his interactions with students.
Tanner’s investment in his career and work goes beyond his personal success. From speaking in schools and churches across America to creating poetry-based curriculum for classrooms, Tanner’s motivation to spread hope through poetry focuses on the next generation.
Sharing Universal Truths to Creative Kids
Stories are universal. In his talks with students and families, Tanner describes how culture and connection are built on the foundation of story. But not all stories are created equally.
For Tanner, there’s one story that communicates a universal theme of hope that is present and applicable to anyone’s individual story. “Poetry has the ability to cut through some of the fog,” Tanner explains. “There are messages that don’t always fit or make sense. So, poetry can help speak to those human emotions and [our] reality.”
It’s the story of Jesus that encourages Tanner to keep going. Whether it’s through written word or in front of church members, Tanner’s hope is that his work would point to something greater than himself.
It’s a message he believes is worth sharing. And for parents with creative kids, it’s a message that’s worth cultivating.
How Parents Can Support Their Creative Kids
Tanner and I discussed some helpful reminders and advice for parents with kids that have creative interests. Keep in mind that these tips are not universal, and some kids might respond differently to certain parenting strategies.
1. Model Your Interest
You might not always feel or see it, but your children look up to you. They need and expect your approval and confidence in their abilities. With creative pursuits, your interest is valuable to your children. You have the opportunity to choose to model your interest in powerful ways.
When your child comes to you with a latest drawing or poem, consider your body language and tone. Are you fully present and focused on them? What kinds of questions are you asking? How can you better understand your child? This is just the beginning to modeling authenticity in your interactions with a creative child.
2. Patience as a Parent
Children have unique personalities. These personalities reveal your children’s emotional needs, thought processes, and values. For creative children, there can be specific structures, such as schedules or sleep patterns, that clash with their creative values or pursuits.
This might test your patience as a parent. And that’s okay. Part of helping your child discover his or her personality and interests is exploring how to best establish boundaries, rules, and limits. Remember to always maintain sensitivity and warmth in these conversations.
3. Learn Alongside
Support comes in many forms. Verbal affirmation and praise are valuable tools in letting your children know you support and love them. Yet, learning alongside your children is an excellent way to cement your support in their mind.
Depending on your child’s interests, try to learn alongside them. Ask good questions. Offer to take them to explore their interest, maybe in a museum or at a slam poetry show. Showing authenticity in your child’s interests communicates value and support in profound ways.
During our time, Tanner also offered a handful of practical tips that parents can pass on to their kids as helpful suggestions when exploring creative opportunities.
Establish a Routine
Routines. Funny little things. For some people they’re necessary. For others, they’re simply suggestions. From devotional time to meals to family time, routines can carry importance for people who enjoy structure. Knowing your child’s personality and values could help you determine and establish effective routines for completing work.
Accountability carries extreme value in both personal and spiritual life. Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
In this context, accountability is framed through salvation and justification. Yet, the principle of accountability applies for creative projects as well. It’s an important question: Who are you trying to please? Pose the question to your creative kid. Then, engage in a conversation about how accountability plays an important role in creativity.
Know Your Audience
Part of Tanner’s success and satisfaction in his creative work comes from knowing his audience. Over the years, Tanner’s been able to form positive relationships to share the hope and message of Christ with fans and supporters. In your child’s creative pursuits, encourage him or her to connect with a like-minded audience with similar values.
Know Your Platform
If your children post or publish their work on social media, it’s important to understand the differences between platforms. For children in the preteen to teen years, this might be part of your ongoing conversation about the advantages and shortcomings of social media use. Continue to commit to helping your children navigate an increasingly difficult digital world.
Final Thoughts on Cultivating Creative Kids
Tanner views his mission in the beginning stages. In his mind, he’s only begun to discover the passion God’s gifted him through creative writing and speaking. The titles of Tanner’s poetry collections (I’m All Over the Place, As You Go, Walk a Little Slower, and Continue) are reminders of God’s creativity and purpose over our lives. They’re worthy reminders of the value in exploring how Jesus’ hope and love can challenge and encourage your creative kids.
© 2022 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the HOLY BIBLE, ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.