What is the greatest responsibility parents have in this crazy business called acting? If you follow my articles you are ready to answer with “being on time to auditions, having current pictures and vitals, keeping casting profiles up-to-date, having proper work permits and Coogan account, making sure my child knows their lines, is dressed appropriately, and more.” Definitely, these are important activities in which to participate.
But your biggest responsibility? That your child grows up to be happy and well adjusted, not only as a kid but also as an adult!
So how do you make sure your “actor child” is growing up to be a “normal child”? I took the question to the experts…parents who are in the trenches every day with working child actors. Parents whom I know are in it for the right reasons, because they have children who love to perform, who love the business, and want to be on TV and in the movies, on stage, or on Broadway. Here are some of the answers that I received, and some tips that can help you raise your child to be happy and healthy.
1. Sometimes you have to say no. “We have to say no sometimes on both the career side and kid side and we all understand that we can’t be two places at once. When there is a day when we don’t have auditions or bookings or rehearsals, he goes to school, he runs around and plays outside, we bake cookies, etc. We plan big fun family outings and we make sure we always have a really nice bedtime routine. Staying connecting and loving as a family helps keep our child’s perception as ‘this is all totally normal.’ We never let him get stressed out and we all know when we just have to say no sometimes even when we want to say yes.”
2. Make sure you’re working on a schedule. “Schedule, schedule, and more schedule! School work, practice, and try our best to book events on the weekend. This limits the time away from school.”
3. Get them involved in extracurriculars. “I keep my daughter in sports so she has time with her peers.”
4. Always put schoolwork first. “She comes home and does homework, I check her work, she has a snack if she wants to (that won’t interfere with singing practice), she warms up and sings according to what’s happening in her schedule, then she might go do dance classes, or work on performances if she has a show coming up. Sometimes she gets in a voice lesson.”
5. Let them make their own decisions. “She goes to the recording studio to work on her songs as time permits, and then she has karate two nights a week. She takes one day off per week, her choice. She makes videos in her free time, has friends over on her day off. She enjoys what she’s doing, so it’s not all work to her. She used to compete in karate on a national level, so she had to give that up. She wants to take an instrument but there just isn’t anytime to fit that in. This is her normal, she has made the choices to travel down this path, and we provide her with the best people possible to train her or produce her and of course manage her.”
6. Make everything as fun as possible. “We love watching her practice at home, so it’s really family time when she’s doing it, not just practice. Soon we will be firing up the jacuzzi, so she loves having some time in there after a long day, or hanging out with her friends. When we are at auditions we try to squeeze some fun place that she wants to go to while we are there.”
7. Allow your child to pursue acting if this is the career they want. “Guess one can ask, ‘What is normal?’ By staying grounded and simply allowing your ‘normal’ child to pursue their acting career! Kids today are so immersed in sports like football, soccer, ice skating, gymnastics, to name a few, that acting should be no different. And with hard work in any sport, or in this case, pursuit of a long lived acting career, it simply becomes part of who your child is! And of course celebrating friends and families birthdays is a must!”
8. Keep your child in school. “Raise your child in their hometown in regular school when they are not working. This way when that work ends one day they still have a normal life and it’s easy to transition back to reality. The reality is that most kids won’t continue to work as they age and they need to stay grounded in reality.”
The neat thing in all of this is how acting is just part of the daily routine, and the sweet parental awareness of the delicate balancing act it is. It is easy to get totally immersed in the daily acting activities, but make sure you help them to take time out and include family things in your weekly rhythms. Don’t forget the family vacation away from acting. You and your kids have earned the break!
Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!