In my career as a voice teacher, I’ve had the pleasure of working with talented young students who are driven to succeed in the arts. After countless hours of lessons, years of perfecting their craft, and pure dedication, a seismic shift happens in about their junior or senior year of high school. Fear overshadows confidence and pride takes a back seat to uncertainty and doubt. While these emotions are understandable and in some cases inevitable, thoughts filled with ‘what if I don’t make it’ and ‘what if I can’t make a career out of this’ becomes growing pressure if parents affirm the fear and doubt.

Choosing to major in any one discipline is a tough decision on its own. Deciding to pursue a degree in the performing arts often gives rise to questions about how your talents translate to marketable skills that will support you in your adult life.

Parents decide on the day their child is born to guide them through life, give them advice, and help them see their way through decisions. When they learn of their child’s endeavor to pursue the arts, it can often paralyze them with fear. They wonder what the future can possibly hold for the child they nurtured and supported all their young lives. Of course, it’s a given that they want the very best for their child.

They want to set them up for success. Parents do so in the best way they know how and that often means swaying them to go in another direction, to pursue a more practical discipline, something that, in their minds, will be a conduit to success

I know from years of experience and countless hours spent watching these young men and women come into their own and ultimately thrive that no matter what your child chooses to pursue, there are many life lessons to be learned, and not all of them will be easy. To survive arts in this complex world and become a productive citizen, they must learn the meaning of hard work; learn to accept responsibility, and must learn about personal productivity and how to manage it for themselves while also managing self-acceptance.

Parents, there are things you cannot and should not try to shield them from. They must learn to thrive on their own. No matter what happens, they must learn to follow their hearts and pursue endeavors that make them happy.

“Forcing their hands or pushing your personal agenda does nothing for them. It teaches them to conform to a norm that just may not be in keeping with who they truly are.”

If a lesson is to be learned, and it often is, then allow them to take the path of their choosing. Allow them to live in that moment. Don’t encourage them to give in to fear, doubt, and insecurities. Are there 100% guarantees that the path they choose arts will be the right one—of course not. But there is a much probability that they will be better served by allowing them to choose their own destiny. If they find happiness and success along the way, they will have earned it. Encouraging them to live in fear is essentially stymieing their growth, impeding their success, and ensuring that the only thing they learn is that they’re incapable of handling challenges, striving for their dreams, and conquering obstacles that may block their path to wherever it is they want to go in life.

When they announce their decision to pursue the arts, take pride in knowing. You raised a confident child with an innate entrepreneurial spirit and the tenacity to prosper in life. Support all that is unique and special about your child. Trust that they will find success and happiness on their terms. Be there to offer support and encouragement. The journey in studying the performing arts is filled with rewards, big and small. Your unwavering support and trust in their decision is a message they will carry with them throughout their lives. Why not give them that? They’ve earned it.

By Cassandra Claude

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