How to Keep Your Teen Involved in the Arts
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Build a social foundation
The most frequent complaint-question combo I hear from parents is: My teen wants to quit her lessons. What can I do about it? In many of these situations, I wish I could rewind the clock to take the family back a couple of years. Then I could ask about other artistic activities the student enjoys. As an example, instrumental students who get ensemble experience in a school or community band are getting a world of exposure outside their lessons and developing a social support structure that revolves around music. It’s a more balanced experience than sitting in a lesson once or twice a week, then practicing alone for hours. Similarly, dancers in ensembles and visual artists who get together as students form lasting relationships and continue to fuel each other’s creativity.
Keep their eyes on the prize
Goals are also important to artistic study. In the arts, this means performance opportunities or, for visual arts, shows and exhibits. The key point here is to keep your teen involved by putting his artistic skills to good use, perhaps to benefit the community or needy. Just as in sports, participation in an art contest isn’t about winning. Rather, it’s about doing, gaining experience, and experiencing the challenges that keep teens engaged in the arts.
Leave the door open
Will every student continue in the arts? We would hope all students have exposure to the arts and experience the joys and challenges of studying art, yes. But not all young people will continue on the same path. If your teen wants to quit her artistic studies and do something else, help her to be sure by suggesting she stick with it, say, another month or until the summer, before making the decision.
Your teen is a young adult. If he’s certain that his focus has moved beyond his art, forcing him to study will seem to him like punishment. Instead, assess the situation together. If it’s about timing, rearranging lesson times could help. Has he outgrown his teacher? One teacher can’t always accompany a student through his teen years; it might be time to explore a new teacher or school setting.
Keeping your teen in the arts is about keeping her options open, supporting her decisions, and encouraging her exploration of ever-changing art forms.
Andy McDonough is a former public school educator, an education consultant, and a writer and musician. He, his wife, and two teen daughters live in New Jersey.