When Do Child Actors Need To Be Coached?

I was a panelist at a SAG-AFTRA young actors symposium the other day when a parent asked, “How do I know when my child needs coaching?” Do you find yourself running to your child’s coach every time you get a call from the agent or manager? Here are some guidelines to help you determine when to call in the specialist and when to leave things alone.

1. How difficult is the material? It may be an emotional scene where the actor has to cry or get angry. Maybe the character is blind or has a disability. Is it a period piece? Is a dialect required? Sketch comedy and improv skills might be necessary. Your child would benefit by working with a coach for any of these reasons! However, if the audition involves one or two lines and the performer just needs to be natural and be themselves, maybe you should save your money this time.

2. Does your child need a boost of confidence? In addition to working on skills with the young actor, a good coach is also a cheerleader and one of your child’s biggest fans. Mom and Dad, I’m sure you are rooting for your child, but according to my own child, what I say doesn’t count because, according to her, “Parents always say nice things.“ Sound like any child you know?

3. Has it been a while since your child got a callback? Perhaps his or her skills are rusty. Now may be a good time to check in with a coach. Brushing up on improvisation, sense memory, and audition technique may be just what is needed to put your young actor back on the map.

4. Did the casting director request that you NOT coach your child? This would be a really good time to listen. Don’t have them coached - by anyone!!!! If you don’t heed this warning you are not only jeopardizing your child’s chance for success, but you are putting him or her in the very awkward position of having to lie if asked about it.

As an acting coach, it is my passion and my livelihood to work with young performers. As much as I would love to coach your child, there may truly be times when it is best to let things be. Ask your child if he or she feels confident with the material or if working with a coach would give them the upper hand. We can sometimes underestimate our children. They may know what is best this time. Just ask!