Imagine this: you’ve invested years of time and thousands of dollars to support your kid’s passion for acting. Just when things are starting to get somewhere, they announce they want to take a break and “just be a normal kid.” Now what?
An announcement like this can throw parents of young actors completely off guard. How do you deal with a sudden request for a break and what do you tell their reps if they have any? It can come as a shock if your kid decides they need to take a break from something they’ve loved, and that you yourself may have become emotionally invested in. But part of being a supportive parent is supporting your kid when their interests change or they want to take a break and just be a kid.
There are a lot of reasons a young performer may want to take a break. It may be a temporary need or it may be that their interests have truly changed. It may be that they still love performing but they’ve discovered they don’t love the industry or like the competitive nature of the business. The degree of competition at the professional level can be difficult for a lot of kids who thrived at a simpler, amateur level. There’s nothing wrong with this and you can’t discover it without trying those waters. A lot of kids who fall in love with acting do so in the context of local theater, which is a haven for many creative, passionate souls. They can be dismayed when they discover that TV and film, while offering some degree of that same joy and community, are really their own worlds and typically not as warm and fuzzy.
We try to teach our kids the lessons of perseverance and persistence, and we know that these traits are necessary for success in life as well as success in the entertainment industry so is it wrong to just say OK if they want a break? This is where thoughtful, intuitive parenting is critical. It’s a fine line between an opportunity to build resilience and character and pushing a kid to do something they really don’t have their heart in. A kid who really doesn’t have their heart in the game will never succeed and reputable agents and managers will not want to be part of sending them out on auditions.
It’s also possible that they love the work, love the industry, and have had one bad experience scare them off so consider asking them in a way that makes clear that there is no wrong answer why they want to take a break. Sometimes a little pep talk is all they need to keep pursuing something they really do love.
There is nothing to lose and everything to gain from listening to your child’s clear message and stepping back if that’s appropriate. If their heart isn’t in it, they shouldn’t be doing it. Period. That doesn’t mean they’re done for good. They truly may need a short break or they may realize that they feel complete with that path and want to pursue a new passion that they didn’t see when they were younger and started this one. Kids evolve as they grow and deserve to be able to explore new interests. The skills learned in the course of building an acting career are invaluable. None of the time your child spends pursuing this path is wasted. Confidence, the ability to speak in front of adults and groups, self-expression, improvisation, listening skills, focus, teamwork, work ethic, self-discipline, perseverance, and persistence are just a few examples.
If you find yourself in this conversation with your young actor, my advice would be to talk to their reps. I would hope that their reps would be understanding. Any agent or manager who represents your kid should want what’s best for them as a human being, beyond their potential commission value. Explain that your child wants to take a break and that you’re very grateful for everything they’ve done, and hope that they will be there if your child decides to return to the pursuit. If they respond negatively, they probably aren’t the right reps for your kid. If they respond positively, you know you have great reps whose interests are truly aligned with the best interests of your child and that they really will be there for you if your child decides to return.
Meanwhile, your kid will know that your commitment is to supporting them as your child, not just as a performer. This is unconditional love in action and regardless of where your child’s path leads, there is no more important ground for them to stand on.
*This post was originally published on Sept. 9, 2019. It has since been updated.
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