As an adult, the holiday season can be pretty hectic. We often look back fondly on childhood memories of the season, seeing it as fun and carefree. What we tend to forget though, is that kids can have a lot of events occurring around the holidays too. Children who are involved in music, in particular, often have quite a busy schedule leading up to the holidays and the added pressure can be stressful.
Budding musicians usually have a lot on their plates over the holidays. Not only do they have to keep up with their regular schoolwork, but they also have music rehearsals, recitals, school concerts, extracurricular performances, etc. Just as with adults, some children deal with the added pressure better than others, but everyone could use some support during chaotic times.
If you’re a parent of a young musician you may be wondering how to help your child cope with the added strains of holiday commitments. Here are some tips you can employ to help them maintain their cool when their schedules are full.
One of the big challenges that young performers (or performers of any age) face is stage fright. Many children enjoy the process of learning to play an instrument, but when it comes time to showcase what they’ve learned they freeze up. The holidays are a big time for performances. Some kids are natural performers, while others struggle with anxiety over putting their talents on display. If you’re the parent of a child with performance anxiety there are some things you can do to help.
Start by validating your child’s feelings, letting them know that it’s common to feel this way before a performance. Be sure to show empathy rather than brushing aside their feelings and telling them that they will be fine and not to worry about it. Try teaching your child about relaxing activities such as breathing deeply, going for a walk, laying down and relaxing all their muscles, or meditating. If your young musician is dealing with extreme anxiety it may be necessary to take smaller steps towards performance. Ask his/her teacher if your child can perform privately for the teacher or have his/her performance filmed and shown to the rest of the group. Over time your child can work up to performing for an audience.
With such a packed performance schedule during the holidays, it’s easy for kids to lose focus and set aside or completely forget about their regular tasks. This is where organization comes in and you can help your child get back on the right track.
First, talk to your child about slowing down and taking tasks one at a time. Explain that while it may seem more efficient to work on multiple things at once, it’s actually more effective to take things on one at a time. That way, each task gets proper attention and we don’t stress ourselves out. As far as getting homework done goes, setting aside a specific time and space for the task helps with focus. Also, making sure to minimize distractions (phone, TV, computer) during homework time is essential. Oftentimes, laying out tasks and commitments on a calendar or chart helps to keep the schedule in focus for the whole family.
If it seems that despite your best efforts, your child is falling behind on schoolwork, has no time to relax, or is just getting worn out but the hectic pace, it may be time to downsize the holiday schedule. Sleep is essential for kids. While there may be times when your child is up later than usual due to commitments, this shouldn’t become the norm over the holidays.
Try to maintain a good bedtime routine most of the time. It’s recommended that kids between 6 and 12 get 9 to 12 hours of sleep a night and kids from 13 to 18 get 8 to 10 hours. Of course, even with a jam packed schedule, down time is necessary for kids too. Make sure that they have some time each day to just relax and be a kid. They should get to enjoy the fun of the season too—beyond all the holiday performances.
At times, the fast pace of the holidays is enough to make anyone exhausted, but especially a busy young musician. Being there for your child and offering structure, support, and empathy is the best way to get your talented child through the busy holiday season.