There are so many different factors when it comes to supporting a young dancer, from their age and what styles of dance they are training in, to their future goals and aspirations. Family dynamics also play a big role in how you can show support to your child, so no piece of advice will work for every family.
However, showing support, staying informed, and being a good role model will help in most situations a new or first-time dance parent comes across. We are happy to break down some specifics of what this means to make the job easier for both parent and dancer.
Support and Encouragement
If you are a parent to a younger child or younger children (around 12 and under), then you know how much your child still looks to you for help and guidance. At this age, support looks like listening to their interest and enthusiasm and enabling the correct level of participation. Encouragement looks like asking your child to demonstrate what they’ve learned in classes and making it a priority to show up to dress rehearsals, recitals, and other events.
A great way to support an older student is to encourage them to be a good team player and a good student. Remind them that by being a good student in class, they become a role model for the rest of their team. You can also take this opportunity to teach them about responsibility, time management, and the importance of having a good work ethic, especially as they start to balance a heavier academic and dance schedule. The skills they apply in the dance studio will transfer to other areas of their life, so remind them to take all of their commitments seriously, and to treat their teammates and instructors with respect, even when it gets tough to do so!
Being a good teammate is being a good friend. Supporting and encouraging your child’s friendships in their dance community can look like anything from attending cast parties after shows and planning to attend dance conventions with friends, to hosting a living room watch session for a CLI interactive class!
Lastly, encouragement can be as simple as giving positive feedback when you see your child working hard and achieving their goals. If your child sees an obstacle, (say, they’re having a hard time picking up choreography) it may be your moment to remind them that when the problem is looked at another way, it may be an opportunity to grow!
Support Their Teachers
Encourage your child to share their goals with their dance teachers so that their instructors can help to put them on the right path. This can help your child build self-confidence, and feel empowered in the process. If you do choose to reach out to your child’s dance teacher on their behalf, be sure to do so respectfully and with an open mind. The more your child sees you working in support of their teacher, the more they will be likely to do the same.
Tip: If your child comes home from dance feeling upset or unseen by their teacher, you can encourage them to take responsibility for their dance education by having them speak to their instructor privately. Your child can ask questions like “What do you think I can improve upon,” or “How can I be a better dance student?”
Stay Informed and Interested
Keeping up to date with current events or registration deadlines at your child’s studio is just as important as being aware of other opportunities. For example, not every summer program has robust marketing, and you don’t want to miss a great program that fits your needs and budget just because you didn’t think to do any research!
Tip: Search for summer programs early in the school year, as some audition and application deadlines are as early as December and January.
Remember that staying informed is not a one-size-fits-all problem! If your dance studio does a good job of reaching out to dance parents and informing families of upcoming events, maybe as a parent you don’t have to do as much legwork. The opposite may also be true, and more involvement on your part might be necessary if your studio or method of training doesn’t provide as many resources for your dancer.
If that’s the case, you can always step in and find other opportunities for your young dancer. For example, if there are upcoming CLI interactive classes that you don’t want your child to miss, you can jot them in your calendar and make a day of it. You don’t have to understand why your child is obsessed with dance icon Brian Friedman to respect and support their interest and to help them be on time for his class.
But Not Too Much!
Whereas many sports programs are run through schools or district-wide leagues, when it comes to dance, it can be harder to define what a good level of involvement means as each studio is run very differently
Keep an open line of communication with your child, their teachers, and other parents to understand what the best balance of involvement looks like. Know that this may evolve, too. If you have an older dancer, more experienced dancer, you may have already faced the challenge of having to pick between two extracurriculars as schedules and commitments become more intense.
Tip: The great thing about online dance classes is that they can work around any schedule. If your ballerina wants to swap dance shoes for cleats for a year, but still wants to have fun and not get rusty in the meantime, consider a CLI Studios subscription to help her balance her many talents!
Sleep and Nutrition!
Dancers are working out new muscles constantly, pushing their bodies to new limits every day. Sleep is imperative to the proper restoration of our muscles. Without it, our body and brain begin to suffer. Good sleep habits are especially important for dancers of a young age because their bodies are still growing. Young dancers often engage in strenuous and irregular movements while also expressing strong emotions. This can be a physically and mentally taxing experience! To get the benefits of dance without feelings of overwhelm or exaggerated soreness, resting is key!
Tip: Consider getting your household into a routine so that distractions peter out when it’s time to go to bed to help your dancer get a restful sleep.
Dance can be quite cardio-heavy, so proper fuel is especially important. Help your dancer out at home by trying to prepare healthy meals and snacks for on the go in between dance classes. Drinking enough water will also help your child to avoid cramps and to alleviate soreness and fatigue.
Tip: Start by preparing a few healthy meals with lots of protein on the day your child dances the most. From there, you can slowly start to incorporate more healthy options throughout the week. If you prepare healthy options throughout the week, your child’s body has more time to absorb nutrients and minerals and to recover.
Be A Role Model
At the end of the day, the easiest way to help your dancer out at home is to create a safe place for them to rest, refuel, and rehearse. We are products of our environments, so if surrounded by encouragement, good habits, and plenty of support, your child will have the best chance of succeeding at anything they do, dance or otherwise.
Sharing experiences with your kids is a great way to be a role model and show support. If you’re up for the challenge, you can do this by taking an online class at home with them and letting them laugh at or be impressed by you. If that’s not your style, you might enjoy having a movie night to watch a cool dance film or video together!
Provide Access to Tools and Resources
Ok, we’ll admit it: there are some material things that you can get for your child that would support their dance practice at home! If you have the means to do so, you can buy your child a good quality mattress, a foam roller, proper dance shoes, or a good water bottle. All these things can help a child to get the best chance at refueling, resting, and supporting their bodies.
You can also choose to prepare a space for dancing in your own home. Investing in a section of Marley floor to roll out on your garage floor might be a young dancer’s dream, but it’s not the only way to create an at-home studio. An at-home ballet barre can be easily made out of PVC pipe. Moving couches to create dance space for your child just requires a little bit of elbow grease. Ring lights and tripods to record videos on a phone are everywhere these days, and there are options for every price range. Videos aren’t just for social media, they help dancers see where they could be making corrections when they’re training alone without the help of an in-person instructor.