From the moment children are born, parents naturally want to see them succeed at everything in life. As parents, we have a special and unique role to play in our childrens' lives as they navigate through the different challenges, successes, and failures that they will inevitably face. Academics, athletics, and social scenarios will all create opportunities for children to learn from and grow through. Finding the balance between being a supportive spectator and challenging them to reach outside of their comfort zone can be difficult at best.
If your son or daughter has expressed interest in trying out for the school play, here are a few tips to help you both thrive (and survive) from the audition to the final bow.
There is a special form of character building that can come from being involved in the arts, particularly in drama or musical theater productions. It takes a brave and confident soul to stand alone during an audition and sing a song, give a monologue, or perform a solo dance in front of a panel of adults who are sitting there to judge and critique you. Unlike playing a team sport or receiving a low grade on a test, when you perform on stage you are making yourself vulnerable in front of a room full of people, mistakes and all! As parents, we need to help our children see that not only landing the part but memorizing lines, practicing parts and auditioning are all big accomplishments and successes to be celebrated. Sharing healthy and reasonable expectations throughout the experience will help keep success obtainable for any performer.
KNOW YOUR CHILD
Knowing your child’s personality and temperament is going to help you both get through the process much easier. Does your child normally want your help and involvement with homework, sports, and friends? Do they typically seek out your advice and input? Or do they often fly solo, independently figuring things out as they go? It may be tempting to be pushy and voice your opinions on song and character selections, but try to take your cue from your child. Pushing your child to do something they are uncomfortable with may turn them off of performing altogether, and it also takes the enjoyment and fun out of the process. If they want your involvement and advice they will let you know! Respect the boundaries that your child will try to set, especially if they are older.
It’s been said that the key to great communication is the ability to listen well, and this proves true with your child and their theater experience. The theater journey can be an emotional roller coaster, especially during auditions and when it gets close to performance time and nerves - and exhaustion - are running high. Let your child blow off steam and talk endlessly for a while if they need to, or in contrast, they may need a silent car ride home to decompress after a grueling rehearsal or performance. Ask if you can do anything for them and leave it at that. It’s also a good idea to save asking for all the details until the next day when they have had time to process and rest. They are much more likely to be open and share with you when they don’t feel like you’re interrogating them.
As hard as it may be, try to keep critical comments to yourself unless your child asks you specifically, and even then sandwich the critical comment in between two positive comments:
“First of all, I’m so proud of how much you’re practicing for this part, but yes I think that song is too high for your voice, but your face is showing really good expression when you sing.”
Let the director and the drama teachers do the coaching and the training. You are there to be the supporter and encourager! If your child asks for your opinion or feedback, be honest, but always find something to praise or be positive about, too. Most often kids are hard enough on themselves.
RELAX AND HAVE FUN!
To be part of a theater production is to be a part of a wonderful community of people engaged together to bring a dream to reality. As a collective group of students working so hard and giving so many hours towards a common goal, it’s no wonder that the friendships formed are often life-long and very strong. There are moments (during those weeks of three or four rehearsals!) when you may wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into, but you’ll quickly discover the benefits outweigh the sacrifices. Take one day at a time, not looking too far ahead to stress yourself (or your child) out, and try to enjoy each moment. If your child becomes stressed out during the process, which will most likely happen at some point, look for ways to lighten their load and encourage them. Remind them what they’re working towards and that tomorrow is always a new opportunity to start fresh.
Remember that being involved in performing arts isn’t about being successful; children will always rise to the challenge of putting on a great show. Instead of focusing on whether or not your child is hitting that note, saying the line perfectly, or owning their character, focus on the wonderful benefits that come with being involved in the arts.
Through their involvement, children gain steady confidence, learn to support one another no matter who the main roles are, learn respect for those giving them direction, and learn how to work with their peers. They learn how to handle disappointment, how to prepare and practice for something they want, and that hard work and commitment do pay off in the end. The biggest benefit, however, is that these experiences allow them to use the creative gifts and talents that God has given them to bring Him glory.