My nine-year-old daughter loves to dance. But since my pint-sized ballerina first stepped out into the competitive spotlight four years ago, this not-so-Dance Mom faced a steep learning curve in understanding how best to support her.
Whether your child is a musician, dancer, magician, performing in a recital, competition, or examination, here are six suggestions for supporting her as she takes on the bright and rewarding challenges of a stage performance.
1. Help Your Child Prepare
Performance success begins well before your child steps foot on stage. Children perform best when they feel confident with the material. Help your child learn the value of preparation by encouraging her to attend all classes and rehearsals consistently. And, make time in your family’s schedule for her to practice at home when necessary.
2. Avoid Adding Unnecessary Pressure
The first time my daughter competed, she was very quiet and reserved in the hours before the show. I was nervous for her and spent too much time asking her if she was okay and if she felt nervous. In hindsight, it really wasn’t very helpful at all. Children often take cues from us, and our own attitude or emotional state can make all the difference in how they feel about their upcoming performance. It’s helpful to keep things casual. You can avoid adding unnecessary pressure by assuring your child that the outcome doesn’t matter — she's there to do something she loves.
3. Recruit a Cheering Squad
My own family makes every effort to ensure that my daughter feels supported whenever she's on stage — grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, cousins, and good friends have all attended at least one of her performances over the years. Even when your child can’t see you through the bright lights of the stage, knowing that you are there is a great support and can help to calm any pesky nervous feelings.
4. Be Organized and On Time
On the day of her performance, try to keep your child’s daily routine as normal as possible and reduce pre-show nerves by being well-organized. Allow plenty of time for all of the necessary preparations (costumes, hair, etc.) as well as time to travel to the venue.
5. Celebrate the Occasion
Each year, before her end-of-year recital, one of our fellow dance friends receives a lovely bouquet of flowers from her grandmother delivered to the dressing room. It's such a sweet tradition. A special card, small gift or even a post-performance outing or treat are all great ways to celebrate your child’s efforts and accomplishments too.
6. Avoid Critical Feedback
As we count down the days to each dance competition or recital with last-minute rehearsals and hours of practice at home, I remind myself that I am not my daughter’s dance teacher; I am her mom. My place is to offer encouragement so that she can strive to be her best with the training from her professional coaches, and the positive support of mom. I am, after all, her soft place to land when she's tired, discouraged, or disappointed.
There is little I love more than watching my daughter step on stage to dance her heart out. Her passion to dance is teaching her so much more than pirouettes and plies — she is learning to work hard, be committed, set goals, deal with disappointment, and more. And that makes it all worth the effort for this not-so-Dance Mom!
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