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6 Reasons to Not Downplay the Performing Arts

Photograph by Twenty20

Here's what might happen if you share with parents of high school- and college-bound kids that your teen has decided to major in performing arts: There'll be some wincing.

A couple parents might ask you how your kid will ever get a real job. A few will definitely stress to you the importance of a Plan B. Someone might even lower their eyes, put their hand on your shoulder and whisper "I'm sorry," as if you'd just announced that your kid had joined a cult.

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For some parents, having a child who wants to be a musician, actor or dancer is their worst nightmare.

That's because there's still such a stigma around pursuing a career in the arts. I know this firsthand—both my kids have been involved in the performing arts since middle school and their decision to immerse themselves in a creative field is often looked down on by well-meaning friends and family. For some parents, having a child who wants to be a musician, actor or dancer is their worst nightmare, a guarantee that their child is destined to be unemployed and live in their basement for the rest of their lives.

I can give you some good reasons to wholeheartedly support your kid who longs to be on the Broadway stage or sing like Beyoncé, not the least of which is it's usually a good idea to help your kid follow their dreams. But there are some solid, practical benefits, too. Don't clear out that basement just yet.

Image via Marsha Takeda Morrison

1. They'll keep their grades up

Most parents think involvement in the arts means their kids will neglect their academics, but actually the opposite is true. Most performing arts departments require their kids to keep up their GPAs in order to be eligible to participate in shows and concerts.

2. They'll develop a sense of community

Lots of time spent rehearsing and performing together means that the kids tend to form close bonds with their fellow performers. High school and college can be a big, lonely place, but these programs provide an instant circle of similar-minded peers.

3. It's good for their work ethic

Another myth: Being involved in the performing arts gives the kids plenty of time to slack off. Not true, and you can ask my kids about their late night, weekend and holiday rehearsals. They work extremely hard and get an exciting payoff, seeing the fruits of their labor come performance night.

4. Science says so

Participation in arts programs in school contributes to improved reading skills, language development and writing skills according to a study by John Hopkins University. And the results are not only in academics: The study also points out that other benefits include positive social behavior, collaboration with others, courtesy, tolerance and attention to moral development.

5. Performing can give them confidence

Drama, dance and theater instructors are great at helping kids develop skills to engage with others, whether it's an audience of hundreds or just a circle of their peers. I've seen so many shy, hesitant kids truly come into their own by the end of a school year.

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6. They'll reap the benefits for the rest of their lives

Participation in the performing arts in school doesn't mean your kid will necessarily pursue it professionally, but is being able to do a plié, belt out a show tune or act out a scene from Hamlet ever a bad thing? The arts are something kids can take with them and enjoy whatever they choose to seek out in life, and experts say that the discipline they acquire will be an asset to any pursuit. So don't fret parents—chances are your high-school thespian will definitely be a able to get a "real job."

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