1) BE your child's GREATEST FAN
Whether your child is going to be the next Prima Ballerina or dance passionately their whole life as a less than perfect recreational dancer they need YOU - and need you to be a solid rock and foundation for everything they attempt from concerts, to ballet exams to competitions and auditions. These sensitive young dancers are 'children' and must know that you love them unconditionally whether they fall on their faces or nail that triple pirouette. Demonstrate that you are truly their greatest FAN and help build their confidence and self esteem as they grow as hobby or vocational dance students.
2) TRUST your dance TEACHERS
Once you have found the correct dance school for your young dance student remember that they are the experts and that your child's success is as important to their studio as it is to you. If you have issues then always TALK to the teachers, don't be underhanded and scout out and trial new schools before exploring all avenues of discussion. Always try and support your studio wholeheartedly and they will appreciate and cherish you and your child reciprocally. If you want to be a great commercial dancer then don't stay in a classical ballet school and vice versa but once you find the best school don't Studio Hop as your child's confidence and technique will suffer. If you have inadvertently chosen the wrong teacher at the start then change swiftly for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.
3) CARE & PREVENTION of INJURIES
A recreational as well as a pre professional young dancer can be beset with minor to major injuries and your job is to find and provide the best possible care and treatment. Finding the optimal dance specialist, doctor, surgeon or physiotherapist is essential. Regular maintenance checks for aspiring young dancers are vital. If you own a Mercedes Benz I am sure you take it in for regular motor inspections - your young dancer needs just as much if not more regular care and attention especially during growth spurts.
You may be called on to make heartbreaking decisions on whether your child should dance at a particular event or not due to an injury. Be prepared and inform yourself about every aspect of their injury and weigh all the consequences carefully. Remember if the end goal is a career in dance - then it might not be worth risking further injury for this one trophy or exam result.
Even checking that those blisters and corns caused by pointe shoes are being cared for is important and remember that prevention is ALWAYS BETTER than cure. Check young dancers have cooling and heat creams or gel to hand, plasters and bandaids in abundance and REMIND them to use them.
Knowing that they are always dancing on sprung flooring, without slippery or splintery surfaces is a must.
4) NOURISHMENT is everything
In the studio and during dance events always make sure your child has plenty of light healthy snacks and remind them to eat at regular planned intervals. Dancers are often very nervous and just don't want to eat but at this young age they must have high energy levels that only good food can provide. Never offer a large meal right before a dance class or event - always allow at least two hours for digestion processes.
Keep them well hydrated but not to the extent that they keep having to find a bathroom!
On a day to day level make sure your young dancer's diet is well planned, nutritious and full of energy foods. Whatever your food favourites or beliefs are please DON'T ALLOW FAST FOOD other than as a very occasional treat.
If your young child wishes to become a professional dancer and has weight issues then these need to be addressed at a very early age by an industry professional. The amount of over or under weight young dancers who have put in years and years of training only to realise at seventeen or eighteen that their weight is not going to allow them a job as a dancer is heartbreakingly large.
5) Be POSITIVE & SUPPORTIVE
Having positive and supportive parents is a huge plus for any young person whatever they wish to be when they grow up. Young student dancers need heaps of positivity especially when class might have been harder than usual, an examination result may not be what was hoped for or a certain part in an upcoming concert was given to someone else. Always applaud their efforts and try not to criticise or correct their dance moves - remember you are paying an expert to do that. Really try and attend every class or dance event that you are invited too. Some children who find themselves without any family present at for example Parents Watching Week are often hugely distressed.
Always encourage and praise your young dancer as your approval will be essential to their self esteem and motivation. If you do think they are underachieving, not working or not concentrating then ask for a teacher interview asap to ascertain why. Being enthusiastic about their hobby or chosen career path is the kindness and greatest thing you can do for your child even if you secretly wish they had perhaps chosen chess classes. Dry any tears and be their champion. Always have a tiny treat or outing up your sleeve if an audition, important class or competition goes badly wrong.
6) Getting the TIMING right.
Making sure your child arrives on time for their dance classes is a must. It is a total embarrassment for a dance student to enter the studio late and often this causes quite a disruption to the class. Try and plan your dance class day so that their hair is done and dancewear ready before they need to leave for class.
Lets face it YOU are usually the chauffeur and the timekeeper so plan the timing of every dance event down to the last detailed minute. All dancers must have time before they go on stage to warm up properly, stretch, do a barre, get make up and hair done, put on and fasten often difficult costumes, prepare for quick costume changes in advance, go through their routines, check and try out shoes, do up ribbons, fix complicated head pieces, pin on audition numbers with crazily small and inefficient safety pins, hand up their music, register their attendance and a multitude more diverse things.
Reality is that dancers MUST have time to prepare in peace and quiet for whatever event they are dancing at and it is up to you to provide this. Go through with your child and even their dance teacher the optimal timing schedule and plan some extra time for finding the venue, even finding where the dressing rooms are, meeting unexpected friends etc etc. During the preparation time make sure your child keeps to the pre determined schedule.
7) Be their 'Silent MANAGER'
Serious dance students have a lot on their plates just managing their classes, dance exam work, competition work and above all preparing for any auditions or important workshops. They definitely need your help and support in many ways.
Even if your child only attends a weekly class, do read all your dance school's emails, newsletters and Information packs and do ask other parents or the teacher if you are unsure of things. Read Notice Boards at the studio and check in on social media for any last minute changes to class events or concerts etc.
For vocational students, keep a calendar of all your child's important dates and make sure they know what they should be working and focussing on at the appropriate time. Before big events check through their dance bags and have a detailed costume check list ready for exams, auditions and competitions etc. Your child should be a BIG part of this too but cannot manage it alone. Remember even professional dance company members have dressers to care for their costumes, hairdressers and props people, scenery, music and sound technicians etc.
Academically, your child will greatly benefit from your support too so that their school work doesn't fall behind. Important academic dates on their calendar will help keep assignments and homework ticking over so it doesn't build up and become stressful if they are dancing a lot of hours.
Mentally, young dancers need your support and encouragement to consistently work hard and to take responsibility and go the furthest they can with their talent. You may also need to guard against gossiping, bitchy behaviour, big headedness and jealousies. All unwelcome traits that they can pick up from unrealistic over-dramatised TV productions about dance schools and worse still from social media and other young dancers or even parents! Keeping them well grounded and humble is to give them the biggest chance at achieving their dreams whatever they may be.
The rewards for being a great dance parent are huge - Go for It!