As a parent, I imagine you want the absolute best for your child. They are your world, and you want to provide them with the tools to succeed. Signing them up for extracurriculars and athletics, such as attending dance classes can be a great addition to your child’s life. However, it is easy to feel a little lost when you become the parent of a competitive dancer. Having spent 15 years as a competitive dancer and now as a teen counselor in Scotch Plains, NJ, I’ve seen how tough it can be firsthand. Between classes, private lessons, and costume bills, it happens pretty quickly. Not to mention doubling up on ballet classes for strength and technique. With all of this, it’s hard to keep up and can be hard to pump the breaks after seeing your teen’s talent take off.
Is the Pressure Too Much for Teen Dancers?
At times, the competition can be heartbreaking. Seeing your child have an “off” day, or watching the struggle with pressures of perfectionism takes a toll. At the same time, there’s the passion, structure, increased self-awareness, and that ultimate feeling of stepping on stage. As a teen counselor and former dancer, I can say the benefits have truly made me the strong, confident woman I am today. And just like that, nothing compares to the feeling of being proud of your child. Watching them nail it with a beaming smile and radiant confidence reminds you that it’s all worth it.
Over time, the pressure begins to create friction, which then lights a fire that stops the flow of joy and creativity that once came so effortlessly… Burn out. -Award winning dancer and choreographer, Jaimie Goodwin.
At first, you may not recognize it. In April’s case, it started with her daughter, Ella, being asked to attend extra technique classes. This quickly led to competitive training and then the season began. The first time on stage, April watched her teen in awe as she witnessed all of Ella’s hard work pay off, unlocking a new level of confidence, growth, and shine. Ella took home first place that weekend with pride. However, with that first place came all eyes on Ella.
Did she deserve it?
Will she choke next week?
She got lucky this time.
The talk is constant and toxic. By the end of the season, Ella told her mom she wasn’t sure about competition next year or attending dance classes at all anymore. Ella was exhausted. Her diet changed, she was behind on schoolwork, and felt isolated from her friends.
How to Feel Prepared
Unfortunately, the dance world is a place where comparison, perfectionism, body image issues, and high pressure is common. When the pressures consume us and our child, we may have that internal conflict of is it worth it?
The truth is, it is common for a parent to struggle with the challenges of navigating the dance world. It is overwhelming to be a support for your child, while also taking care of yourself too. However, when we learn how to cope properly, create healthy boundaries, and find balance, you can continue to watch your child’s abilities flourish, and keep their passion for dance alive. Below, I have carved out some warning signs to steer clear of below and highlighted key points in navigating the competition dance world with ease.
Warning Signs From A Teen Counselor For Teen Dancers:
At times, keeping up with dance class and competitions can feel overwhelming. Below are a few red flags from a teen counselor’s perspective to keep in mind as you continue this journey:
- Burn Out: Burnout is described as feeling continuously overworked, leading to exhaustion. Identifying burnout can help you and your teen feel prepared to cope as needed. Burnout can look or feel like low motivation, feeling alone, detaching from support, or losing that sense of accomplishment.
- Unrealistic Expectations: With unrealistic expectations, comes the inability to meet the goals we are striving for. This can lead to hopelessness in our children, and ourselves feeling unable to support them through this challenge.
- Losing Yourself, Losing Your Teen: When the pressure takes over, you can start to feel lost, or question everything. If you or your teen are experiencing signs of depression, anxiety, racing thoughts, or constantly striving to be “perfect,” this can be a key sign to seek support.
- Unhealthy Coping Strategies: When the pressure sets in, we may start cutting corners on wellness in order to prioritize dance. Although this comes from a good place, poor sleep, unhealthy eating, and poor school performance are all signs other areas of wellness are slipping through the cracks.
- Isolation- Dance is a competitive sport, making boundaries fuzzy when we are competing against teammates and friends. While healthy competition from peers can be motivating, healthy boundaries are needed to protect your child’s self-esteem, confidence, and relationships to avoid ending relationships and isolation.
Tips To Supporting Your Dancer From A Teen Counselor:
Validate Your Teen:
With any competitive sport comes winning and losing. While losing can be upsetting, it can also provide an opportunity for growth and determination. A huge factor in how your child responds to loss is how you respond to loss as the parent. First, acknowledging that not coming in 1st place does not mean we are not good enough. Indeed, second place, third, fourth, and so on is still an incredibly huge accomplishment, and those efforts deserve validation. Second, validating your child for their hard work no matter the score will promote an environment for healthy change. Loss can be hard AND you did your best.
Goal Setting Together:
Time and time again, competition blurs the lines of our overall goals when we get stuck on striving for 1st place. Talking to your teen about their long-term goals with dance will remind you both of what they are looking to accomplish. This could be mastering a skill, gaining confidence in a new style, or maybe just having fun. Adjusting our goals to be more attainable and realistic will spark a boost of confidence, a sense of achievement, and motivation to set the next goal. Here is a link for further support with effective goal setting: SMART Goals: Definition and Examples | Indeed.com
At Brave Minds Psychological Services we know that as humans we can’t help but compare in an effort to figure out where we are in relation to our social group. Indeed our evolutionary survival is based on our ability to stay connected with our social groups. However, comparisons that bring us or others down erodes our self-esteem and ability to do our best. Coach your teen to notice comparisons in their mind, see if there is something to learn from the comparison, and then wish their team member or competition the best. Your teen doesn’t need to cut the competition or themself down in order to do their best. And neither do you. Remember your teen is watching.
Competitive dance requires a lot of time, effort, emotional and physical tolls, and commitment. With all of this, it is common for teens to drop out of other activities in order to prioritize dance. While prioritizing can be effective, dropping out of other enjoyable activities can lead to regret and the mindset that dance is all there is. When we challenge this narrative, we can find a balance between dance, family time, socializing, school, and any other hobbies your teen enjoys.
When it comes to boundaries, I think about the boundaries we have with ourselves and with others. There will always be endless competitions and extra events to sign up for but sometimes we stretch ourselves too thin. Being able to say no or take a step back is not only okay but totally necessary to recharge when needed. As a teen counselor, I suggest you work with your teen to review how much is just too much.
As A Teen Counselor I Know You Got This
Overall, dance can lead to amazing opportunities in life, whether it is something we love throughout our teenage years or something that brings us to a career as we grow up. To this day, dance holds a special place in my heart and remains one of my favorite therapeutic outlets.
If you or your child is struggling with navigating competitive athletics, I am here to help and support. With counseling for teens as well as parenting help and support. I would love to connect and listen to the challenges you are facing and tackle some of these obstacles together. Please reach out for a free consultation.
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A Teen Counselor in Scotch Plains or Branchburg, NJ Can Support Your Dancer
If your child is a competitive dancer our teen counselors in Scotch Plains, NJ can provide them with extra support. We know navigating the competitive dance world can be hard. However, with the right support, it can be extremely rewarding. Online therapy for teens can help from anywhere in New Jersey. Our therapy practice is here to support you and your teen. Start by following these steps.
- Reach out to us to talk with a teen counselor.
- Make your first counseling for teens appointment at Brave Minds Psychological Services.
- Watch your teen thrive.
Other Services We Offer in Scotch Plains, NJ and Branchburg, NJ
Online therapy for teens isn’t the only service that we offer at Brave Minds Psychological Services. For adults, we provide trauma therapy, food allergy therapy, and couples counseling. Additionally, we have postpartum counseling and birth trauma therapy. We offer teen anxiety treatment, social phobia therapy for teens, child sexual abuse therapy, child anxiety treatment, and more. Our services are offered in person at our Scotch Plains, NJ office and through online therapy in New Jersey