This is the last in a three-part series based on conversations and surveys I've had with other parents of child actors about their experiences and lessons learned. The series has been published over the past week on the DC Metro Theatre Arts website and is cross-posted to the blog here.
Over the past two columns, I have written about what other parents have to say about raising a child in show business. We’ve looked at challenges they face and what they wished they had known.
In this final segment, I asked them for their best advice for other parents. Not surprisingly, some of the answers overlap from the previous two columns, but it really comes down to three things:
• Make sure this is right for your family and your child.
• It is a business.
• Be prepared to audition and get as much training as you can.
Here is what my cadre of parents advised:
• “Only pursue this if it is truly what your child wants and not what you want for your child. There is a huge difference and parents know this. It is great when they love it and horrible to see when they do not.”
• “As you get deeper along, remember, they don’t call it ‘show light bulb’ or ‘show airplane,’ but rather show ‘business.’ It is a business and a very competitive and harsh (at times) one. Don’t ever think or be lulled to think otherwise.”
• “Try not to put your life on hold, although this could be tricky. Try to fit show business into your life. Don’t stop your life for show biz. Have your child experience all kinds of things. Don’t make them a singing, dancing, acting machine. If they truly love to do this, a lot of it will be natural for them with a little training on the side. But every child is different and every family unique.”
• “Learn how to Skype.”
• “Make sure this is right for your family. Yes, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that many people dream of and work all their lives to accomplish — but you need to know what it would cost your family emotionally and financially. Your child will not have a typical childhood and might regret that. The time spent away from the rest of family will also have an impact. We made sure that one parent was in the city, and one at home … but it made the time for us as husband and wife hard to come by.”
• “Everyone who is interested should pursue this but don’t expect anything. Be prepared to spend a lot of time auditioning and also a lot of money training. Get as much training as possible and be thoroughly prepared for each audition. Get terrific headshots and update them as needed. Be ready to go to every audition you are sent on (unless you feel the content is not appropriate) If you say ‘no’ too many times to agents they will forget about you. Pursue non-professional work to gain experience.”
• “My advice to parents is to always remember to ask yourself, truly, ‘Are you doing this because your kid wants it or because you want it?’ If you answered yes to the second half of the question, you need to look inside and fulfill your own dreams.”
• “Be involved, supportive, helpful and aware but allow your kid to be who they are not who you want them to be. Children want your approval more than anything; they will do anything for it. So give them lots of acceptance and love and know that we each have our own path to follow in this life. It is our job as parents to encourage them to find their own way and let them know they are loved no matter what they choose.”
• “Don’t push a kid into it, but if they want to perform then try to make it happen. It’s grueling fun!”
• “Listen to your children, and don’t push them. Love them and cheer wildly for them whether they play customer number 10 in their elementary school play or Annie in Annie on Broadway!”
• “Remember that you are responsible for instilling values in him or her. Those values will serve them in life far more than any role they get while they are a child actor. Your job is to raise a person, not an actor. Let the professionals teach them to be good on stage, and you teach them to be good in life. Applaud them for their achievements as a person, not just as an actor.”
That’s sound advice all around. Thanks to my fellow parents for sharing it…
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