You’ve invested years of time and thousands of dollars to support your kid’s passion for acting. Just when things are starting to get somewhere, they announce they want to take a break from acting, and “just be a normal kid.”
An announcement like this can throw parents of young actors completely off guard. How do you deal with a sudden request for a break? And what do you tell their reps if they have any?
It can come as a shock if your kid decides they need to take a break from something they have loved, and that you yourself may have become emotionally invested in. But part of being a supportive parent is supporting your kid when their interests change. Or when they want to take a break and just be a kid.
I know how confusing it can be to hear this.
Dove made this very announcement to me when she was 15, just as her career was starting to get some traction. We’d been with Pamela Fisher at Abrams for about a year. And I was worried about how she would take the news that Dove wanted to step back and take a break.
We had also moved to LA at that point at considerable sacrifice, so there was that too…
Dove and I met with Pamela face to face, and were just as honest as we could be. We didn’t know how long the break would be, or if it would turn out to be permanent. Pam was incredibly understanding and supportive, and said that she felt it was very important if Dove needed to take a break that she be able to do that. If she decided to come back to acting that she was there for her.
There are a lot of reasons a young performer may want to take a break.
It may be a temporary need, as Dove’s was, or it may be that their interests have truly changed. It may be that they still love performing but they have discovered they don’t love the industry. They may not like the competitive nature of the business. The degree of competition at the professional level can be difficult for a lot of kids who thrived at a simpler, amateur level. There is nothing wrong with this, and you can’t discover it without trying those waters.
A lot of kids who fall in love with acting do so in the context of local theatre, which is a haven for many creative, passionate souls. They can be dismayed when they discover that TV and film, while offering some degree of that same joy and community, is really its own world. It’s typically not as warm and fuzzy.
On the other hand…
We try to teach our kids the lessons of perseverance and persistence. We know that these traits are necessary for success in life as well as success in the entertainment industry… is it wrong to just say, “OK” if they want a break?
This is where thoughtful, intuitive parenting is critical.
It’s a fine line between an opportunity to build resilience and character, and pushing a kid to do something they really don’t have their heart in.
A kid who really doesn’t have their heart in the game will never succeed. Reputable agents and managers will not want to be part of sending them out on auditions.
It’s also possible that they love the work, love the industry, and have had one bad experience scare them off. Consider asking them in a way that makes clear that there is no wrong answer, why they want to take a break. Sometimes a little pep talk is all they need to keep pursuing something they really do love.
In a way, there is nothing to lose and everything to gain from listening to your child’s clear message
And stepping back if that’s appropriate. If their heart isn’t in it, they shouldn’t be doing it. Period. That doesn’t mean they’re done for good. They truly just may need a short break like Dove did. She realized she genuinely loved and missed acting, and returned to it after a few months.
Or they may realize that they feel complete with that path. They may want to pursue a new passion that they didn’t see when they were younger and started this one. Kids evolve as they grow, and deserve to be able to explore new interests. In either case, I would hope that their reps would be as understanding as Pam was.
Pam’s response was very wise, and an early sign that she genuinely did care about my child as a person, beyond her value as a client. The absolute truth of this has been proven over and over in the ensuing years. Any agent or manager who represents your kid should want what’s best for them as a human being, beyond their potential commission value.
The skills learned in the course of building an acting career are invaluable.
None of the time your child spends pursuing this path is wasted. Confidence, the ability to speak in front of adults and groups, self-expression, improvisation, listening skills, focus, teamwork, work ethic, self-discipline, perseverance, persistence, are just a few examples.
For a more complete list of the benefits of acting training, see my previous post and downloadable infographic, Thirty-Six Benefits of Acting Classes for Kids and Teens.
So… if you find yourself in this conversation with your young actor, my advice would be to talk to their reps. Explain that your child wants to take a break and that you are very grateful for everything they have done, and hope that they will be there if your child decides to return to the pursuit.
If they respond negatively, they probably aren’t the right reps for your kid. And if they respond positively, you know you have great reps whose interests are truly aligned with the best interests of your child, and that they really will be there for you if your child decides to return.
Meanwhile, your kid will know that your commitment is to supporting THEM… as your child, not just as a performer. This is unconditional love in action. And regardless of where your child’s path leads, there is no more important ground for them to stand on.
An edited version of this post first appeared on Backstage.
Being the parent of a young actor can be challenging! And so much of the most confusing part can have nothing to do with standard parenting issues OR with standard industry issues; rather it’s where these two intersect. If you could use some one-on-one advice and insight, book an online or in-person consultation with me. A single session can bring clarity, peace of mind, and a helpful perspective to you.