How do I help my daughter see that she has options?

“Hi Lisa, My child is 14 and is heavily into dance. A few comments have been made recently that indicate that she feels that she must dance professionally, not necessarily because she wants it, but because she is not good at anything else and has spent so much time and effort on her dance so far. How do I get her to see that she is still so young and she has other options?”

This is an interesting situation and you must take into account what else is going on around your daughter. A 14 year will usually not feel that they have lost all options unless this concept has been introduced to them by someone else: A teacher, a friend, or even someone within the family. Start by asking yourself… “What is her most important value? Is it a sense of responsibility? Is she doing this out of guilt and obligation? Is she worried that if she were to quit right now that her friends, parents and teachers will be devastated or disappointed in her?”

A conversation may need to happen that says “Hey sweetie…We didn’t take you dance for this to be your everything … That was what you wanted at the time, and we supported it… If you want out you can have out… If you want more education we can do that… We will love you and support you in whatever you want to do.” Let her know that her dancing has nothing to do with your love for her, and that you will be happiest when she is doing whatever it is she really wants to do.

Yes, it may be scary letting go of what she knows, and the social implications of stopping dance are often large. Her whole circle of friends will usually be intertwined with her involvement in dance, yet they will not always be there throughout her career. Let her know that whether or not she stays in dance, you will help her through the rough patches. Explain that most of us morph through several identities before we find the one that fits us most, and moving away from of something you have know for a long time is hard. However this is no reason not to look for other things that she may love more.

Just about everything a 14 year old does is relative to her family in some way. Either to impress them; prove herself to them; get back at them for something else or maybe to simply get more love and attention from them. Look at what has been going on for her over the last 12 months and see if there are any patterns that may indicate a starting point for her insecurity in her other talents. This could be a good place to start.

I have had some students be very worried about giving up dance, as it was all that they had ever known, however a year later, were so happy for making the decision. One particular student went from feeli8ng pressured into a professional classical career, to going back to school, becoming involved in Drama, touch football, and debating as well as excelling with her school work, and now has a very bright career path opening in a completely different field. It was tough for everyone at the time (especially her mother!) but now they are all much, much happier for the lifestyle change.

I hope this helps, and would love to hear from other parents with how they have dealt with the same situation.

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