Tips for Parents of Kids Entering the Entertainment Industry

Last updated on August 12th, 2015 at 10:28 am

It all started when our daughter was 11 months old. I remember the day clearly.  She was sitting in an infant seat in a neighborhood McDonald’s when a stranger walked up to our table and handed my husband a dollar bill.

Your daughter is so pretty with her red – hair and I want to just give you some money to buy her something. You should get her an agent – she really is pretty.”

We were both at a loss for words. What was the meaning of this action? We were perplexed.  And yes, as the years passed and her mane of red – curly hair grew, our young daughter continued to attract attention and we continued to be offered all kinds of “career” advice for her.  Natasha on set - Cory in the HouseSo, it came as no surprise when she was about seven years old that our first – born announced she wanted to be on television like the Olsen twins from Full House. Luckily, we were able to postpone our budding thespian to the age of twelve.

In retrospect, I wish I had researched what to expect when you have a child join the professional world of the performing arts.  Most of what I learned was through trial and error, word of mouth and a few books or articles that gave a realistic perspective.  This article is my way of educating parents of talented kids what I wish we had known.

In no certain order:

  1. Have a life of balance, set limits, and give assurances.

I am a firm believer that kids need to be kids. They need to run and play and figure out life on the playground and not on a movie set or on stage. However, there are some children that have a passion for the performing arts and for them being in this realm IS their form of play.  How to create balance while not squashing talent? Allow your child to safely explore and develop skills.  Let their creative juices flow by putting a video camera in their hands to practice their monologues or allow them to write their own scripts. This may be their way of seeking enjoyment in a healthy and constructive manner.

 Be mindful of the child who is hyper-focused on “the career” and not allowing balance. This is a child who may be feeling an overwhelming sense of pressure to perform, fear of rejection or worried that walking away would be huge disappointment to the parent(s). Allow them to walk away.  No amount of fame or money is worth the emotional health of a child.

…And what about the financial piece?

Reassure your child that at the end of the day all will be OK if the part is not secured, the role is cut, etc.  Some children carry a huge burden that they believe their family is depending on their success for income. Not only is that an emotional strain that creates a huge amount of stress, but also, it is not fair if the parents do indeed say that.

Read a recent CNN article about when parents put too much pressure on their children.

  1. The whole family joins in this venture – whether they want to or not!

In the movie FAME there is a famous line when a young performer gets accepted in to the school for the performing arts.  The mother shouts, “WE made it!”  

TSattler Kids - smallerhis scene may be from a Hollywood production, but in fact is a reality in homes worldwide. You may not realize it, but the whole family joins the entertainment business when a family member does.  Schedules may need to be rearranged.  Financial burden may result due to lack of parental wages (a parent or appointed guardian must accompany a minor) and music, acting and dance teachers need to be paid.

And, then there are the siblings.  What becomes of them when their parent(s) are busy with the actor in the family? Who brings them to football practice or gymnastics? Why does everyone pay attention to the one child who is a musical prodigy and not to them?  The siblings are the ones’ that often concern me the most as what will they do to shine the spotlight on themselves if they don’t receive the same attention as their more “famous” sibling. And how will the family dynamic change when the performing child moves from the home to seek fortune in fame in Hollywood, Broadway or other destinations? Which parent will join and which will remain at home?  It is important to keep tabs on the emotional and physical health of all in the family when you are parenting the talented.  Many families can negotiate with ease the changes in family dynamic while others find the pressure insurmountable.  Family meetings can be helpful to keep the lines of communication open and all in check.

Sometimes the child and family will get caught up in the excitement of the entertainment world.  There even may be some early successes or awards offered that give the child a false sense that they are beyond the need for education.  “They already have a job – so why go to school?”

Parents let me tell you as an educator and a parent to a child who did have success at a young age – education MUST be a priority.  Why? Simply, because at the end of the day there are a thousand cute red – headed girls who are all very talented.   And not everyone can be the principal dancer at ABT.

Imagine what life would be like for the child if they did not have a proper educational foundation?  In this competitive world we as parents are responsible for providing an education for our child that will give them building blocks for the future.  Moreover, emphasize that college IS the plan or at the very least- the back up plan!

Read about famous child performers who have attended college

And learn how education is listed as a top priority within the performing arts industry, too. Read more

  1. Safety also MUST be a priority.

Natasha at 2007 Sundance FestivalThis is a business where you need to go to the thousandth mile in doing your due diligence.  There are a lot of good people in the entertainment industry.  Many will actually care about your child.  But in reality, there also are creeps and scammers.  The problem is that the good guys look and sound a lot like the bad guys.  That is when you get to become the “parent sleuth”.  Investigate the person who claims to be the “best acting coach in town.”  Be an advocate for your child when it comes to issues of safety by checking on licensure and reputation of all involved.

Recommendations for keeping a minor safe in the entertainment industry: Read here

  1. Learn who does what role in the industry and where to find concrete information that is reliable and valid. Click the links below for great resources.

NOTE: For headshots, sizzle reels, etc. please use only reputable and recommended resources.  And never allow your child, tween or teen go to a headshot session or audition alone.

In closing, a child working in the performing arts can be exposed to some wonderful opportunities and fun.  It can be an amazing experience and one the whole family can enjoy.  I wish all who pursue this adventure much success!

“Break a leg!”

About the Author

Louise Masin Sattler is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, educational consultant, founder and owner of Signing Families and co-founder of the 411 Voices Influential Network. She is a frequent contributor to media outlets, such as Education.com and CNN often speaking on topics such as communication, safety and social media. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband of nearly 30 years. Both children are grown–ups now and Natasha, the actor and college graduate, continues to be successful within the entertainment industry. See IMDB for details Connect on Twitter as @LouiseASL, LouiseSattler.com or Louise@SigningFamilies.com

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