How many times have you pulled your child out of school early for an audition? Does your teenager miss the first few classes in the morning because of a late night at the theater? Going to school, attending auditions, and working can be a heavy burden for anyone – especially a child or teenager. Here are some tips to help you as parents and guardians manage the scheduling demands of your busy young performer.
1. Make sure your child gets enough rest. Not only can sleep deprivation lead to poor school performance, it can also compromise your child’s immune system, resulting in allergies or other sickness. If your child starts missing school due to illness, playing “catch up” will just add more stress.
2. Ensure your child is eating a healthy balanced diet. Yes, this is easier said than done. I have kids of my own, and they like sweets. When they are filled with sugar and carbs, they will be lethargic, moody, and not at the top of their game. The next time your child needs a pick-me-up, substitute a protein bar for that Snickers bar.
3. Keep good communication with the school and teachers. Consulting with the school in advance is absolutely a key element to creating a supportive school environment and helping your child stay on top of his or her academics. When children miss class in public school, they are marked absent. They are only allowed a certain number of absences per semester, and "working" absences are not always considered "excused." Consulting with the principal or district supervisor, especially on long, on-going shoots (TV series, movies, etc.), may help you keep the truant officer away from your door.
4. Make sure your child is attending a school that is supportive of their job. I frequently get asked by parents, ”Which school would support my child best?” I decided to ask Alan Simon, president of School for Young Performers and On Location Education, the nation’s premier tutoring service for child performers, to answer this question as he knows a thing or two about school and its demands on young actors.
"Schools that are supportive of the working actor's lifestyle come in many forms. In addition to the School for Young Performers, there is the Professional Children's School. Both of these are examples of private schools that can accommodate a family's needs. Some families prefer to home-school through a variety of programs, some independent, some religious, some affiliated with universities and other institutions of learning. Additionally, there are also many public 'magnet' programs that support drama majors and working performers. Whatever you choose, make sure that your school of record will sign your child's work permit. Completion of satisfactory educational performance must be attested to by a recognized public, private, or home-schooling program in order for your child to legally work in at least forty of the fifty states."
5. Develop a good routine. Sticking to a regular schedule and routine can also help balance the work and school load. The problem is that show business does NOT follow a schedule. For the working child actor, there are hold days, re-shoots, matinee performances, unexpected overruns, etc. Explaining the business of show business to the school takes some doing. They understand scheduling conflicts such as sanctioned sports trips and children with illnesses and broken limbs. The schedule of a “working child”? Not so much. They will have to learn to "roll with it" as much as the family does. When exploring your school options, consider how supportive the school can be before settling on one.
Although my own children are not in show business, I know what it takes to manage their busy schedules. In order to be the best parent I can be I need to practice self-care as well. As the parent of a child actor, I recommend you follow my advice here not only for your child, but also for yourself. Get enough sleep, eat well, plan your schedule, and don’t forget to throw a little fun in too!
Master your craft, empower yourself, and enjoy the journey.
Denise Simon is an acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 25 years as an actor, teacher, director, and personal talent manager. For 10 years, she was an associate with Fox Albert Management, one of the leading talent management companies in New York, where she managed such clients as Scarlett Johansson, Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, Lacey Chabert (“Party of Five”), and Judy Reyes (NBC’s “Scrubs”). Denise has coached hundreds of children and young adults appearing regularly on Broadway and in television and film, as well as educating parents on the business of show business.