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Young Performers

Understanding what resilience means for children and tips for how to handle auditions, feedback and social media.

As adults we are familiar with the term ‘resilience’ but it’s important to understand that resilience for a child looks quite different from the resilience for an adult.

At our recent Wellbeing Series panel, actor Emily Carey, agent and parent Sarah MacDonnell, performer and writer Dominique Moore and psychotherapist Victoria Abbot talked about how to be a confident and resilient young performer. Read on for helpful advice and tips to help young performers navigate the industry.

Understanding what resilience means for a child

As adults we’re familiar with the term ‘resilience’ but it’s important to understand that resilience for a child looks quite different from that of an adult.

Victoria Abbot is a trained actor, psychotherapist and mum of two who runs her own private practice as well as being the support lead for Applause For Thought. She explains, “For children and young people, part of the process of growing up is developing resilience. One of the biggest parts of development for young people is knowing when to pass over that agency [control] to make choices. Ultimately childhood and adolescence is about figuring things out, exploring who you are and deciding whether this is the right choice for me. The young performer is much more able to do that if they can cultivate a supportive relationship with caring adults in their life.”.

Balancing performing with school work and exams

Emily Carey made her professional theatre debut in Shrek The Musical at the age of nine and has worked regularly in theatre and television ever since. Now 19, she says, “School work needs to come first. Look at performing as a hobby which you happen to be paid for. It shouldn’t feel like work because hopefully the reason you came into it in the first place is because you enjoy it!”

Performer and writer Dominique Moore also started working in the industry at a young age including being the first Young Nala in The Lion King. Dominique comments, “I know parents want their children to do well at school and I agree it’s the most important thing but don’t put so much pressure on yourself to get top marks in everything. There may well be subjects that you’re just not naturally good at and that’s ok.”

One of the things that can help with a healthy balance are open lines of communication with your child’s school.

Sarah MacDonnell is an agent and owner of Ardent Talent, a specialist talent agency for children and young performers. She has this advice for parents: “Make sure that the school understands what’s going on and that they understand that performing is actually a benefit for your child. It’s important that your child feels in control of their life and you can help with this by ensuring they know what is happening. Never be afraid to ask questions, especially when it’s related to your child. Their wellbeing, safety and joy comes above and beyond anything else.”

What to expect when entering the industry

Managing expectations and having plenty of patience are two things which can really help to support your child in this industry. Sarah says, “As parents we get excited because we’re proud and we want our children to get to that next [audition] stage but we need to manage expectations and that’s where being a parent comes in. Your child may have lots of auditions but not book a job for a couple of years – it happens. In this industry things can plod along or change very quickly so it’s important to be prepared for all scenarios.”

Sarah also highlights the importance of involving your child in the decision-making process: “If two jobs come in at once, let the child think about which one they want to do. As parents we can feel afraid to say no in case we upset somebody or we get a reputation for turning things down but the industry understands that these are children and their job is just to grow up and be happy.”

Emily echoes these sentiments from her perspective as a young performer, “The most important thing a parent can do is listen. Being a child actor is such a unique experience. You experience emotions, situations and circumstances that kids wouldn’t normally experience, and so the only people who can really understand that are adults.”

If you’re managing a social media account on behalf of your child, make sure you discuss with them what you’re sharing and ensure they’re happy for you to do so.

Using social media

Children and young people need to know how to keep themselves safe online and it’s important that your child feels comfortable speaking to you if they have concerns about anything.

Victoria is working  on a research project about safeguarding young people online and points out that, “So much of what we do online is intrinsically linked to our sense of self and sometimes we can get to the point where we start finding value or worth in likes or followers. That can be a red flag that perhaps this is getting a bit unhealthy.”

“Sometimes it can be very competitive in terms of what people are choosing to share online” reflects Emily, “people post their highlights on social media, nothing is truly real and that’s the most important thing to remember.”

If you’re managing a social media account on behalf of your child, make sure you discuss with them what you’re sharing and ensure they’re  happy for you to do so. Sarah explains: “You are the mouthpiece for your child so it’s important to remember that whatever you put out there will be out there for a very long time. You need to make sure that in 10 years time when your child has grown up that they’re going to be happy with how you’ve represented them.”

Handling feedback and finding closure after an audition

Not landing a job can be devastating for a child but there are a number of things which can help them to process the experience. Remind them that just by walking into the room or doing the self-tape means they’re being seen for a reason. Not getting any further doesn’t mean they’re not good enough, it just means they weren’t right for that particular role.

“The natural instinct is to cheer the child up” says Emily, “but you have to mourn the job and the character because you’ve put so much of yourself into it. By lifting a character off the page you’re creating a human being and so you have to mourn as if it’s a real person.”

Sarah adds “Once the child has been given the space to process the experience they can then start to reframe that feedback for themselves and hopefully they’ll realise that getting to that point is still incredible.”

And finally!

Emily has this post-audition tip for young performers, “After an audition or self-tape, always have something to do that is completely unrelated to acting. It immediately pulls you out of the audition headspace and will help you to have a more positive mindset, whatever the outcome.”

Many thanks to our brilliant panel for sharing their experience, wisdom and advice!

We have lots of helpful tips and advice for young performers – from self-taping to creativity through to meditation, there’s lots to discover.