We’re eager to share some holiday tips for parents of future music majors, because we know you’re in a unique position. We’ve been there too.
For kids applying to college in fields other than music, the winter break of the senior year is typically a time of relief. College applications are in or close to being finished, midterms are over, and a chance to catch up on sleep and socializing with family and friends has finally arrived.
For music parents, it’s a different story. We face an extended period of our offspring’s intensive practice and fraying nerves during the holiday season. Getting those essays written, and applications and prescreens out on time, is only the beginning. Anticipating auditions adds a new level of tension. Our kids are exhausted, too, but winter break ushers in a time of ramping up on practice and preparation.
If you’re a parent who studied music on the college level, this is all familiar to you. You walked in your offspring’s shoes once upon a time, and you knew what it was like to watch your non-arts friends kick back and relax while you were practicing for hours on end. As a result, you’ll probably understand why your future music major son or daughter isn’t exactly merry and bright every moment of winter vacation.
But for parents who didn’t go the music route in college, it’s all new. We may not understand why our kid doesn’t want to spend another night having dinner at another relative’s house, or why they feel they need to opt out of family movie night. Or why they choose to hang out with their friends when they do decide it’s time to take a break — instead of with us.
For parents as well as music kids facing upcoming auditions, winter break of senior year can be trying, to put it mildly. We parents recognize that once our kids go to college, whether in the same city or far across the country, things at home will change. We want to hold on to the way things have been for just a bit longer, because we know they’ll be changing soon enough.
Unfortunately, our “parental tension” just adds more stress to our already stressed-out young musicians.
So what’s a parent to do?
1. Acknowledge to yourself that this holiday season may be different from those in the past.
2. Know that by next year, your music kid will already be a freshman at one of the schools they applied to. The stress of not knowing will be but a distant memory.
3. Limit your expectations for your son or daughter over the holidays. Determine what is essential — and then let go. It’s great practice for what lies ahead.
4. Get earplugs if you need them — practicing may last long into the night. Again, remind yourself: “This too shall pass.”
5. Have compassion for yourself. It’s not always easy to be the parent of a young artist in any field.
6. Practice patience. It will continue to come in handy.