Middle school can be tough on an adolescent’s self-esteem. Social comparison often becomes fierce, leading to feelings of unworthiness that can have negative consequences in years to come.

How can a parent help? New research suggests that one great answer is to encourage your kids to participate in the arts—or, better yet, to join them in some creative pursuit.

“Initiatives to promote arts engagement in children may provide a practical and efficient way to improve children’s self-esteem,” report Hei Wan Mak and Daisy Fancourt of University College London. Importantly, they found that kids didn’t have to be good at their chosen creative activity for these positive effects to blossom.

The research, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, features 6,209 youngsters from the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort Study. The kids were born in the U.K. around the turn of the century; most data here came from interviews conducted during “Sweep Five,” when they were 11 years old.

Why the Arts Matter for Kids’ Self-Esteem

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