How do I best support my child in ballroom dancing?

By Kristina Pfeffer

Participating in sports is a part of most children’s lives. For most it is a positive and enjoyable experience, but for some, it can also be stressful and associated with negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and loss of confidence. The quality of the sport experience is mostly down to the interactions with coaches, parents and other children participating in the sport. A very small percentage of children competing at the juvenile and junior levels will end up being professional dancers and therefore the main objective for teachers and parents should be for the participation in dancing to be enjoyable as well as to teach skills, which can be transferable to other areas of the young people’s lives. Research shows that when young athletes are in a caring, supportive environment the sport can foster positive psychological, social and emotional development.

 Particularly for children and teenagers the parents’ involvement in the sport is important. We have all seen examples of parents pushing their children too far, but at the same time the involvement of the parent’s can be crucial for the child to be able to reach their potential, or even to be able to participate in sport at all. I am sure all dance parents are more than aware of the time spend going to competitions, transportation all over the country, not to mention the money spend on lessons and costumes. So how do you best support your child, making dancing a positive experience, keeping them happy and well functioning while at the same time reaching their potential? Every parent wants the best for their child, but sometimes knowing how to support them best can be a challenge, and how to deal with inevitable disappointments of bad results and loss of dance partners can be daunting. Below are some tips, based on recent research, on how to best support your child as they go through the exciting world of ballroom dancing.

How involved should I be in my child’s dancing?

Parents can be anything from minimally involved to highly involved in their child’s dancing. Research suggests that being moderately involved in your child’s sport is most beneficial to the child, as you can provide the best support for the child. Being minimally or highly involved create a less optimal environment and can reduce enjoyment and increase stress. It was found that when mothers in particular were moderately involved in their child’s sport it produced more enjoyable experiences for the child. Of course it is individual to the child, and where one child might find high parental involvement stressful, another might enjoy that their parents’ come to all competitions and practices, so the best thing to do is, to ask your child if they enjoy having you there or not, and to what degree they would like you to be involved.

How do I deal with my child having a bad result?

When the child is young, participating in a sport should be fun and little emphasis should be placed on competition. Some children thrive in competitive environments, but there is no reason to put any extra pressure from parents or coaches. The emphasis should be on the child improving, working hard and dancing to the best of their ability. Children rely heavily on their parents and teachers for feedback regarding their competence and how you interpret their abilities is really important to how they see themselves. Whether they win or not is most of the time not even only due to their ability, as it depends on which other children are competing that day, who is judging etc. Instead of asking your child “Did you win today?” ask them instead “Were you happy with the way you danced today?” and if they are happy with their dancing, that should be celebrated as a success. Maybe they have set a goal with the teacher of dancing on time, having better connection with the partner or improving performing, and you could ask them whether they achieved the goal that they set themselves.

How do I choose the right teacher?

The parent and the coach are the key people in the lives of a young athlete, and choosing the right coach and teacher for your child can be very important for the child having a positive experience. Coaches are experts in the field of dancing, and parents are experts in their children, so combining these strengths and for the coach and the parent to work together is going to create the best results.

If parents and coaches work together to teach the young athletes coping techniques to deal with psychological challenges such as dealing with stress and managing emotions, dancing can provide your child with many skills, not just being able to do the waltz and cha cha, but also to learn life skills and promote a healthy outlook on sport, school and life.


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