Each dancer has different goals for their dance education and their goals may change over time. Your goals for the dancer may be different than the goals they set for themselves, and that’s okay too. Some dancers have the goal of making friends in class and attending the St Patrick’s Day parade. Other dancers want all of that plus making the top competitive rank of Open Champion. No matter what your dancer’s goals are or what your goals for them are as a parent, here’s how to foster and encourage them throughout their training:
- Show interest - It sounds simple, but many of us are so caught up in our lives or aren’t verbal enough about showing an interest in those we care about. Asking your dancer about what they learned that day, what they’re excited for in their next class, or what friends they talked to at class reminds your dancer that you’re interested without being pushy or overbearing.
- Encourage practice, but don’t force it - Yes you heard right, don’t force them! Often parents think that if their dancer isn’t practicing, they aren’t interested. However, this isn’t always the case. What you may not see is their legs moving under their desk at school, skipping down the halls or the grocery aisles, or their playtime turning into their stuffed animals participating in a class at their bedroom studio. Depending on where your dancer is in their dance journey and their age, this is a perfectly acceptable means of practicing. In my book, dancers who are self-directed and enjoying their practice time will be so much more successful in the long run than dancers who set a timer with a frown on their face because mom or dad is making them practice.
- Encourage your dancer out of their comfort zone - Especially for very shy dancers, dancing is a palatable way for them to ease out of their comfort zone. Gauge what your dancer is comfortable doing (going into class on their own, asking questions, socializing with classmates) and encourage them to take a step forward when the opportunity presents itself. With St Patrick’s Day coming up, dancers have many different avenues to build their experience and confidence while tackling challenges. Your dancer may be initially apprehensive to participating in a parade or dancing in front of their school, but if parents present it as a fun way to show off their hard work and really celebrate their achievement the dancer will feel amazing afterwards. That same dancer will feel better about trying new things in both dancing and in life following a positive new experience.
- Ensure preparation - Whether it’s for class, a performance, the recital, or anything in between, ensure your dancer is ready for anything. Make sure your dancer is dressed appropriately, has their shoes and equipment for class, or brings what they need to an event or performance. The dancer can take age appropriate responsibility in packing their bag or costume, but as a parent you can ensure you print out a list provided by the teacher or double check it before getting into the car. For anxious dancers this is particularly crucial in ensuring they have a positive and exhilarating experience.