Parents and teachers around the world can speak on the ways children benefit from reading, but children can also benefit from creating their own stories. Writing teaches children how to communicate their ideas. They can practice their empathy and learn about people different from themselves. Young writers can flex their imaginations to explore new places or create situations they’ll likely never face. They can have fun, find a new appreciation for books, and find a creativity that’s useful in any field.

Whether your child writes as a hobby or wants to become a professional, your support can help them become better writers. Here are eight ways to do just that:

1 | Let them write what they want

You might not be happy to see Call of Duty fan fiction or horror stories, but let your children write whatever they want. Writing something is better than writing nothing. If you try to tell them to write only original stories or to avoid some of their favorite things, they can lose their joy and confidence. No matter what genre they’ve chosen, they’re still learning fundamentals and becoming better writers. In the end, there’s usually a market for anything.

2 | Focus on exploring and learning

Writers face a lot of rejection and frustration, and few of them ever become best-sellers. Instead of pushing your children to finish a story they’ve lost interest in, let them move on to something else. If they want to try poetry or non-fiction or fan fiction, let them explore their options. The only goal is to keep them interested in learning new things. It’s okay if they never finish a story, and it’s okay if they lose interest in writing altogether.

3 | Help them if they ask for it

If your child asks for something specific, try to help. Let them take classes online or with a local organization. Give them prompt lists or random words if they’re feeling stuck. If they let you read their stories, ask questions about what happens next to get them thinking about the story in new ways.

4 | Talk about their privacy options

Some people don’t want anyone to see their writing. Others will let strangers read their words but never anyone they know personally. Others still might be okay with their friends reading their stories, but the thought of strangers reading it leaves them anxious. Have the discussion if you’re unsure what your child might prefer. If they don’t want you to read their words, respect their privacy. If they do want you to read their stories, don’t share them with your friends without asking first, no matter how much you want to brag.

5 | Consider letting them share their work

Some magazines and websites hold contests for children and teens. Some websites let pre-teens and teens post their work for reviews, or you can use social media as a way to spread their stories. Writers have successfully used Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr to share their stories. Let them use whatever platforms they already know or help them learn new ones.

6 | Write together

Make writing something you can do together. Whether you sit side-by-side and work on your separate projects or you pass a notebook back and forth to work on the same story, writing together can be fun. Once they know that collaboration is possible, they might even try writing stories with their friends.

7 | Make a book for them

If your child has shared their writing with you, consider putting some of it together in a book just for them. Holding a book of your own words is powerful and can open their eyes to more possibilities. When they see their name on a cover, it might be the start of their writing career or it might be a nice reminder of the stories they used to write as a child. You won’t know where writing will take them until many years later.

8 | Ban all talk of “real jobs”

Good writers can pivot into almost any field they like, so don’t let your friends talk about your child’s writing as a passing hobby if it’s something your child takes seriously. If your child asks you about the realities of a writing career, research it together. Introduce them to writers you know and explain the different types of writing they could do. Let them listen to interviews with writers, if it helps, but let them bring up a writing career first so you don’t end up pressuring them and taking the fun out of their stories.