I think that managing ourselves as parents is one of the true secrets to helping our kids succeed as young actors. Our inner self-talk guides our actions, and our kids register it subconsciously. When we are aware of the gap between our encouraging words and our inner doubts, we feel stress, and our kids pick up on the stress too.
So how to manage that? Specifically, how do we manage the doubts and fears that we don’t want to communicate to our kids?
Re-framing is a technique that can be really useful here. Our doubts and fears often come from the way that we are holding a thought, or an interpretation of some kind. For example, a really common one: “there are SO MANY talented, hardworking kids competing for roles—how can my kid ever make it? What are the odds?”
So the frame we are holding in this case highlights the slim odds our kids are engaged in as they follow their passion. This can induce panic in even the most levelheaded parent. But what if we changed the frame?
The fact is that your kid isn’t technically in competition with every other kid who competes for a given role. Even if 1000 kids audition for a certain role, most will not be remotely right for it. They will be too tall or too short, their hair or physique will not be what the casting director wants for that role. Or they will be lacking in charisma, or turn in a read that hits the wrong notes. Too brassy or too flat. Or maybe some of those kids are great and exactly what the casting director wants, but they are just not ready. So they are not contenders for that role either.
Your kid is actually only competing against a handful of other kids for any given role, because in the casting process, only a handful are ever really contenders. Your kid is competing with THOSE kids. Maybe a dozen, or half-dozen kids, maximum. Framed in this way, suddenly their odds are not so crazy. The competition becomes manageable.
This particular frame is useful because it is truly accurate. The rest of the “contenders” are just noise in the system.
As parents, there is only so much we can do for our kids. We can sign them up for great classes, line them up with great coaches, help them get a meeting with a top agent or manager, be there to run lines and give pep talks. But when the audition comes, only they walk into that room. Ultimately the results are out of our hands.
And the results are even out of our kids’ hands after they do their best. Then it’s just a matter of whether they are what the casting director wants for that role, that day.
Tomorrow the same casting director may have a different role to cast for which your kid is perfect.
What else can you reframe to be less crazy-making in your life as the parent of a young actor?
I would focus on emphasizing the process over the product. Yes, every actor wants to be cast. But the fact remains that the vast majority of “work” for actors is simply auditioning—over and over and over. And taking classes, and practicing. So fostering a love for that whole process—looking for the fun in it, looking for the wins—is a much more satisfying way to approach the game. It really is a variation on how we can approach life in general.
What feels better—to find things to enjoy and appreciate in each day, regardless of whether we have attained our dream house/job/relationship? Or to only allow ourselves to feel happy if and when we achieve these things? I think the answer is pretty clear!
Given that nothing is truly guaranteed in life, it seems to work better to look for things to enjoy and love about what we have in the moment, on the journey. If we can model that for our kids as they approach an acting career, they are more likely to keep a healthy attitude as they pursue each audition, and as they grow. This will support them in keeping a grounded perspective all their lives, whatever their level of success in the industry.
Finally I think it’s useful to get a reality check by learning about the journeys of other performers. How many auditions did your kid’s favorite actors go out on before landing their first decent role? How many more before the next one? How many years did they study and work before their “overnight success” happened?
Interviews can sometimes yield this information, and a little sleuthing on IMDb can help fill in the story as well. For Dove, we were in Los Angeles a full twelve months before she got her first role (a 2-episode recurring guest star on a popular cable show) and another eight long months before she got her second role! That one was for the pilot that eventually became Liv and Maddie, and I think she’d logged about a hundred auditions by then.
Probably no one would argue at this point that Dove is a very talented, hardworking young actor. But in the casting process, talented and hardworking are what gets you in the door. So much of the rest is out of your hands (and your kid’s hands) that cultivating an approach that’s about love for the process, for the journey, for the work itself, is what will keep you both sane.
“It is the adventure and uncertainties of the journey that makes life so beautiful and interesting.”
― Debasish Mridha
My book, The Hollywood Parents Guide, available on Amazon contains everything I wish I’d known when Dove and I started this journey, and will save you untold amounts of time, money, and stress. Full of information you MUST know, it also features stories from parents of other kids who’ve made it!
Or book an hour consulting with me to come up with an individualized plan that takes your own unique needs into account. For about the cost of an hour with a professional acting coach, you can get your questions answered and a road map to help you move forward toward your dream.
Invest a little in your kid’s future today.
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