You begin with the best intentions. Your child exhibits a natural knack for hamming it up in front of friends and family on a regular basis and spends free time memorizing the lines of her favorite TV show characters while other kids are playing with dolls and LEGOs.
One day you realize that you may have an actual future Academy Award winner on your hands and wonder what to do next. So, you dip your toe into the entertainment industry’s waters and they confirm:
“Yes, your child could very well be the next Disney child star.”
You then cautiously enter into relationships with agents, managers, casting directors, studio executives and media. Before you know it, your world has broadened with an entourage focused on the meticulous grooming, presentation, promotion and profitability of your child. Now it’s time to review the 10 reality checks for Hollywood Moms.
It’s essential when entering the entertainment world that you and your child are grounded. Conversations prepare your child for any potential trouble they could encounter when entering a world of fame and fortune. Being aware provides your child with a solid home base to rely on.
West Coast Counseling Center has focused on this before, in previous Hollywood Mom blog articles and in a television interview on E!’s “Out of Control, 10 Celebrity Rehabs Exposed” addressing the dangers young stars face when they don’t have a safe place and a steady parent or guardian to guide them through the potentially harsh realities of the entertainment business.
Earlier this month in PEOPLE Magazine, Mischa Barton revealed the challenges she faced being flung into instant fame by her show “The OC.” She admits that as a teen everyone was dependent upon her. Mischa states, “I asked to get out of jobs all the time and the response was, ‘No, you have to.’ There’s an attitude that you can’t say no.” Barton’s mom, Nuala, also acted as Mischa’s manager and earned the reputation of being a tough stage mother. A former associate who worked closely with momager Nuala told People Magazine, ‘Mischa was the bread and butter for her entire family, but her mom was running the show.'”
It is important to stay cognizant that producers, directors, cast, crew and any others who come into your path are strangers, no matter how much their fame and authority makes you feel like you already know them. How do you give your trust to these people who will now be considered authority figures in your child’s life? Take time to cautiously assess these relationships and build trust when appropriate.
Whether you are currently considering entering your child into this fast-paced world or are already knee deep within it, it’s good practice to give yourself a reality check. You don’t want to end up writing books about your momager misteps after the fact like Dina Lohan. Her memoir by Bird Street Books due out in December is a look backwards at “shattered dreams, incredible disappointments and comebacks, and a mother’s admission to an imperfect life.”
Top 10 Reality Checks for Hollywood Moms
- Are you intent on nabbing the most popular, celebrity agent or do you have a healthy idea of what kind of person would best represent your child? How do you screen each person who will have a level of control and decision-making power in your child’s career?
- Are you or your child experiencing or ignoring any particular doubts, fears, pressures or intimidation in regard to any part of you child’s career? If so, assess those feelings, get them out in the open, and then decide what steps to take. Frequently check in with yourself and your child about these types of feelings.
- Remember that you are still the parent and it is important for your child to see you in a role undiminished by the presence of any other authority figure in their life. Remind your child that you hold the space where they can come and reveal anything, including things that others might be saying or doing to them that they wouldn’t want to disclose to anyone else. Have clear integrity in this. If you tell your child to come to you with everything, make sure when they do that you are receptive, loving and non-judgmental.
- Be consistently aware of the expectations being placed on your child so that you can determine whether or not they are appropriate.
- Be aware of authority figures in your child’s life who manifest as close friends, faux-“aunts” and “uncles,” or who may be peer stars whom your child idolizes. Make sure that your child isn’t doing anything to compromise their integrity out of a sense of idolatry or wanting to belong.
- Be aware that children learn a lot from those they are closest to. When you see them embarking on new professional relationships, keep tabs on their personalities, attitudes, and the way they communicate. Stay abreast of the activities they regularly embark upon with these new people in their lives to constantly gauge their safety levels.
- When you aren’t partaking in efforts surrounding your child’s fame make sure your child still has a sense of a “normal” home to find solace within. Create boundaries and acknowledge an appropriate amount of time to talk about the necessary “biz” while keeping your home a place where the family is simply that—family. This sense of normalcy will become a haven to you and all of your children.
- Make sure your child maintains their grades and their normal social life and place value and reward systems into place around doing well in these areas.
- Discuss your child’s career with them often, asking what their overall goals and dreams are and sharing your goals and dreams for your child as well. Doing this will allow you to see if you and your child are on the same emotional and psychological page and allow you to make adjustments if you are not.
- Be prepared to accept your child’s decision if they become uninterested in continuing their career. Be careful not to create a feeling of guilt or pressure. You may find that you have your own feelings of disappointment and may need to seek out someone more appropriate to talk to about your feelings.
As a parent, it’s important to go into the entertainment industry with your eyes wide open. Taking care to check in with yourself on a regular basis will bring you back again to what’s important—the overall health of your child and your family.
Cindy Busto, LCSW, DCSW and Jody Frank, LCSW, DCSW, CAS are owners of West Coast Counseling Center (wcccla.com) in Encino, Westlake Village and West Los Angeles. where they have been partners for the past 28 years.