Our dancers put their hearts, souls, and bodies into their craft. They work hard at what they love, and it shows each time they take the stage. As parents, it is wonderful to see the culmination of all that training and dedication come to life in their beautiful performances. It is sometimes easy to forget how young they are, and that along with all of the time and work they dedicate to perfecting their dance, comes the risk of burn out.
Classes, rehearsals, and performances alone keep our dancers very busy, and many dancers are juggling a full schedule at school, homework, friends, and extracurricular activities as well.
It can be a struggle to keep up with it all, especially with final exams often coinciding with performance schedules. As parents, it is imperative that we help guide our dancers in preventing physical, emotional, and mental burn out. Burn out can lead to injury, illness, and can threaten a dancer’s love for their craft. When a dancer feels overwhelmed, they may feel as though they are figuratively drowning under a wave of responsibilities they don’t feel up to meeting.
What are some things that we can do as parents, to help them through this busy and sometimes overwhelming season?
Taking care of ourselves physically . . .
With rehearsals running into the late evening, and a full course schedule of homework to tackle once they’re home, dancers may be sacrificing sleep in order to get it all done. Physical burnout can hit us out of the blue when we are working our bodies without caring for them. Adequate sleep and proper nutrition shouldn’t be underestimated. Having a healthy dinner prepared for them to have during their break, and healthy snacks to give them an energy boost once they’re home helps them get through homework more quickly and efficiently, lending to an earlier bedtime. If their dance break is long enough, encourage them to complete homework during that time. Our dancers are fortunate enough to have a quiet space in which to complete schoolwork during their breaks – again, encourage them to take advantage of it. While it’s tempting to spend break time visiting with friends, getting enough sleep should come first.
In addition to careful planning so that our bodies are getting enough rest, as parents we are key in making sure that our dancers are getting proper nutrition. Planning out meals and snacks ahead of time keeps us from that mad dash to the fast food restaurant! With all of the physical demands of dance, convenience should never outweigh quality nutrition.
When our dancers are feeling healthy physically, they are much better able to manage keeping on top of things mentally.
Taking care of ourselves mentally . . .
Planning, planning, planning! Keeping organized is vital when their schedule is so full. Suddenly remembering they have a big test coming up the next day is a big stressor, and keeping on top of school assignments and due dates is key to avoiding mental burnout. Many schools have assignment logs online, but some dancers may do better to keep a written notebook of assignments and due dates so that they don’t fall behind or forget what’s coming up.
This is a good time to ask ourselves whether our dancers are over committed.
Because of all that their craft demands of their bodies and their time, they do have to choose their priorities more carefully than friends who don’t dance. Committing to too many extracurricular activities at the beginning of the year can lead to disaster when suddenly they have more events than they are able to manage.
It’s simply not possible to fully commit themselves to a full dance class and performance schedule, while managing school clubs, sports, and band at the same time. They must choose where they want to fully commit themselves, which can be difficult when their interests are varied.
In addition to keeping school assignments organized, making sure dancers have what they need for dance class helps avoid stress. Dancers should be well aware of rehearsal schedules and requirements ahead of time – thus avoiding stressful last minute scrambling. Encouraging our dancers to keep their dance bags clean and well organized can also help them feel calm and prepared.
Avoiding stress through organized planning as much as we are able not only helps dancers feel more mentally able to conquer the day, but contributes greatly to their emotional wellbeing.
Taking care of ourselves emotionally . . .
Unfortunately, this can sometimes be the last priority on our list, but is just as important as our physical and mental well-being. Making time for the things that give dancers an opportunity to unplug and just enjoy themselves, will help them avoid feeling emotionally burned out. With the week being so busy, it can be tempting to overschedule the weekend in an attempt to catch the overflow. This is another reason that keeping on top of school assignments during the week can be so important – if the weekend is full of homework and studying, they will have no time to relax before heading into another busy week. They may feel as though they are never caught up.
For some dancers, spending time with friends is their favorite way to unwind after a stressful week. For others, having downtime to dive into a good book helps keep them emotionally healthy. In either case – prioritizing time for what boosts their emotional well-being is a great way to prevent burn out.
I don’t think there is a single dancer who is seriously pursuing their craft who isn’t passionately in love with it. Each time they miss a school dance or a friend’s party because they have rehearsals or a performance, they do it for the love of dance. Being physically, mentally, or emotionally burned out can turn something they love into something they dread. However, recognizing burn out as a threat, and taking steps to avoid it, can help ensure that our dancers will happily pursue their passion into wherever their futures lead them.