Parents often contact me seeking advice on how to foster their child’s dream to be on television. When the child has little to no acting experience, I suggest that they participate in an acting class for beginners, much the way they might begin learning to play a musical instrument or take on a sport for the first time. In short order, most parents know if their child loves it and wants to build on their passion, or if it is just a passing fad.
The advice gets much trickier to dispense when working with the family of a child who has actively participated in local theater and/or acting classes for some time and is now preparing to audition for professional roles. In these cases, I suggest first pausing for a moment to consider if your child is “in flow” when they are on stage or in front of the camera.
The psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes the state of happiness that creative people feel when they are completely engaged in the process of creating something new as a “flow experience.” The following list is Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s description of how it feels to be in flow (Flow, the secret to happiness, www.ted.com):
Completely involved in what we are doing—focused, concentrated.
A sense of ecstasy—of being outside everyday reality.
Great inner clarity—knowing what needs to be done, and how well we are doing.
Knowing that the activity is doable—that our skills are adequate to the task.
A sense of serenity—no worries about oneself and a feeling of growing beyond the boundaries of the ego.
Timelessness—thoroughly focused on the present, hours seem to pass by in minutes.
Intrinsic motivation—whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.
I like this list and encourage parents to use it before embarking on a professional career path for their children. It breaks down what we commonly refer to as a “passion for acting” into understandable parts that can be observed by teachers, and openly discussed between parents and children. Ask yourself if your child’s actions are consistent with the feelings on this list. If so, discuss the list together to confirm these feelings. When you are confident that your child is in flow when they act, ask yourself one final question before wrestling with the logistical and financial details of launching an acting career: Is your child literally begging you to bring them to an audition? If you can say yes to all these components, then your child is well on the way to taking his or her acting to the next level.