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Family decisions: "Growing up" at a Residency

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Guest Rachel

Please feel free to delete this post, because I know that I'm technically not supposed to post here. However, I need some advice from parents who most likely feel the same way as mine do.


I'm going to the Royal Winnipeg Ballet's Summer Program this summer, which serves as an audition for their year round program. If I were accepted and went, I would be a 15 year old living a long way away from my parents in California. My mother and I were discussing boarding last night. Her view was that without the support network of a family, I might run into emotional problems. She thinks that the isolation of such a ballet-focused atmosphere would result in me missing out on certain parts of growing up.


How would you feel if your son or daughter wanted to move away to pursue their ballet training? Doesn't life force a kid to grow up, no matter what the circumstances? Would it be more difficult to live without my family than I realize?



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My truth, Rachel, is that it will be more difficult for your family to live without you than you would ever realize.


As to how it will be for you, that is really very individual, student to student, and to some extent you won't know how you you are until you have tested the waters, if you decide to. You and your parents can only make your best assessment by looking at how you approach life generally, how you deal with tough situations, how dependent your self-esteem is on the assessments of teachers (versus from within), how much support you can draw from, and give to, your peers, versus needing very close support from your parents.


Then I think it is important to totally acknowledge, even while you are deciding, that this is not the only path, the only school - to a dance future. Perhaps you will go because they have chosen you, only to find this setting doesn't fit with your body, spirit, personality, etc. You may need to acknowledge that without it being a defeat in your life.


Of course, you may love it.... or find it tough but believe it to be the best for you and stick with it, etc.


Do you feel "driven" to go there? Does it far exceed opportunities within reach of you at home?


I have a daughter who left home at your age and has loved it. But from her overall very positive experience - even with a few wild curves here and there, and from knowing stories of the comings and goings of other students at various schools, these are some of the questions I suggest you consider.


It is very hard, on the parent at least, if they are in a situation like ours where they can only afford one or two trips a year to where the student is. Crises, health concerns, etc. are all dealt with over the phone. In theory and reality, a talented, responsible, positive-spirited 15 year old CAN handle it. Obviously many do. Some have a tough tough time --- so that's all to think and talk about. Good luck! ;)

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Hi Rachel,


My 14 year old is at RWB. The atmosphere is very welcoming and the students are well taken care of. I see, in my daughter, an independence and maturity beyond what a lot of girls that age have. I don't think that living away has done her any harm. She has wanted this since she was quite small so it seemed like a natural transition.

The students attend a local high school so they do have contact with the "outside" world on a daily basis. Yes, they do miss out on some of the "normal" aspects of teenage life but that is the choice they have made.

I think how you adjust to living away depends on how much you really want to succeed. If you have questions or doubts about your choice then the decision to go away will either enhance those doubts or dispel them.

I think the most important thing that we as parents can do is support our children in the decisions they make, be there when they have had a tough day and let them know that they can come home if their goals or dreams change. It is very important to keep the lines of communication open with your parents. Having a child leave home at a young age can be as difficult on them as it is on the child.

My only other bit of advice is to get a good long distance plan... I talk to daughter every day:D



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Guest Watermill

Rachel, your questions say a lot about you. Just the fact that you are pausing to ask them is a sign of maturity. I think syr has struck the right kind of cautionary note for this discussion.


This is such a huge decision for your family that I hesitate to throw in my two cents without knowing what kind of family you have. There are many hidden dynamics within a family as it lives together that become apparent when one of the members is away. Each family has its own sense of balance and a unique overlapping set of relationships. Going away to study before college age will strongly affect that balance and those relationships. There are usually both positive and negative results. I would think it important to carefully consider what the effect of your leaving home will have on those relationships. It's not just you heading toward something new, it's you leaving behind an empty chair at the dinner table three years before its expected.


If indeed you are accepted and go to the year round RW school,

I'd like to suggest two helpful modes of communication: Instant Messaging on the computer and two cell phones with free mobile to mobile calls. My 14 year old daughter and wife have moved across the country for ballet training, yet I know what each had for lunch today. We chat either on the phone (Knowing it isn't costing extra, just the monthly fee, helps) or on the computer every day. The separation is quite different than what you would go through, being by yourself, but these two types of communications really help hold the family together. We expect our daughter to be somewhere out there on her own at 16, but not 15. That's just our personal line we've drawn.


I wish you and your family the best of luck with this difficult possibility.



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Guest BilboBaggins

Ah, Rachel, how refreshing and wonderful your approach is ... your maturity isn't a question ...


15 months ago, I moved to the UK. My kids, 10 and 13, live with mom (we're divorced) in the U.S. My daughter (now 13) is very involved in ballet. This summer, she'll be living away at Nutmeg (CT); last summer was supposed to be Kirov (in DC), but a broken leg cancelled that; the prior summer (she was 11 at the time) was her first away from home, at CPYB.


Yes, my phone bills are huge (calls every day or so), but there's also e-mail (you have to develop the lost art of writing!! ... try reading some of the famous diarists or letters and get a sense of how much you can convey ...) and I get to visit about once every 6-8 weeks (when there's not a war going on ...).


Many of my colleagues here have children at boarding schools, some dance-related, many not. The issues are much the same -- distance from parents, siblings (although sometimes, it's siblings together at boarding school!!), other relatives, friends.


Clearly, a key issue is how you maintain family contact and family time. Summers, school holidays become more important as family time -- summer intensives may have to give way, if you're doing ballet on a full-time basis during the year, to vacation with family. Phone and e-mail contact become critical in making certain that no one loses touch. Parents have to be able to make the time to come visit ... even during non-vacation times ... and you have to be able to make time in your schedule for them. Flexibility on all sides is critical to making this work.


Sounds like you are taking a very careful and good approach to this -- you're recognizing that your parents are concerned and you're trying to see how others have handled the issue. You are also lucky in that you have a strong and supportive family ... and that will make whatever choice you make work well for you ...


Best of luck and I hope your parents will feel free to participate in this discussion, perhaps air the issues that concern them the most and see what responses come back. I know that I've benefited greatly from asking my questions on this forum and just listening ...



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I went to a boarding school from 7th - 12th grade.


Granted, this was many years ago, and in a foreign country. There was no e-mail then, and, in fact, I wasn't even able to phone home.


But still, I made close friends and also stayed close to my family. I enjoyed the experience.


The one drawback is that, since my classmates scattered, I do not have any place I think of as my hometown, with all that that can mean and provide in terms of friends and connections.

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Guest BilboBaggins

Hi Fendrock:


Sometimes being with your family still leaves you without a hometown ... I mentioned that some of my colleagues have children in boarding schools ... the reason is that, as company executives, they have been posted (for 2-3 years each) to the U.S., then the U.K., then Hong Kong, then China, then .... so this way, their children at least think of school (whether in the U.S., U.K., or Switzerland) as a stable place, with friendly, familiar faces. When they go "home", they think of their family as "home" and not the place, because that may change from year to year ...


it's a different kind of childhood ...



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There is already much good advice here, but since I also have a dancer living away and thriving I wanted to just add to the list of those who are doing this and surviving. My daughter went away in 8th grade. We carefully considered all of her options and finally decided that this was the best option at the time - considering her goals. She has had a good experience overall and is glad that she went. Our family is surviving as well, and although we miss her terribly we are happy that she is happy.


Syr makes excellent points to consider as you and your mom sort this out. Everyone needs to look carefully and honestly at themselves to make a decision like this.


You ask about running into emotional problems. I guess you need to look at how you handle emotional challenges now with your family around to support you? Some kids need that support right there, others can cope with long distance family support. Kids that live away from home look to their peers for more support than those who live at home. If there are positive peer relationships, that can be a good thing. Any teen faces emotional challenges regardless of their living situation. It is true however, that adjusting to life away from home is a HUGE adjustment.


Will you grow up faster? Will you miss out on certain things? Yes is most likely the answer to both. Being on your own develops a certain maturity. Is that a bad thing, I don't think so. Missing out on living at home within a family is a BIG deal......what you are gaining needs to more than compensate for that. Only you can decide whether it will.


I miss daily contact with my daughter. However (and this is a BIG however) when we have time together now, it is absolutely the sweetest time - we both appreciate it so much. I think in some ways our quality time may be greater than a teen and her mom who live together. The teen years are a time for separating and growing up and away. Having a child living away from home changes some of those dynamics - in a good way!


As I began to consider her going away as a possibility I sought out other parents who had gone through this dilemma. If your mom wants to talk personally, she can send me a private message. I would be happy to help if I can.


Although away from home ballet training is working for our daughter and our family, I do realize that its not for everyone. It really is a very individual decision for every family.

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Guest BilboBaggins

Hi Rachel:


I have just one concern as I review some of these posts ... in your e-mail you mentioned you and your mom were discussing this "last night", but I could also see that you were very careful to say you were discussing it with your parents and they were both involved in the decision. I know that girls tend to be closer to their moms as they grow older, but remember that this will impact your dad as well (perhaps in some ways more than your mom) ... and it will impact your siblings as well ....


It's a family matter and the whole family needs to be considered.


As a divorced dad, living geographically distant from my dancer (and her brother), I find the distance makes a dad-daughter relationship more difficult and more stressful than on the dad-son relationship ... you may want to talk to your dad about that as well.



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Let me respectfully disagree. Girls are NOT necessarily closer to their moms, and boys not necessarily closer to dads. They can be close to each parent in different ways. The important thing is to be able to support emotionally, and listen carefully.

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Guest BilboBaggins

Hi Dufay:


Point taken and accepted -- and actually, there's been an interesting discussion of the unique perspectives and value of dads in another thread in this forum.


But what that means is that both parents need to take an interest ... be involved in the decision process ... and have time with the dancer (male or female) when they're visiting or when the dancer is home from a boarding school. As other posts here have said, while one concern is how the dancer will cope with being away and maturing, another, equally valid concern is how the family will cope with the loss and with the distance -- not just to help the dancer, but also to help the family.



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While I do agree that how a family will cope with having a child away at school is important for the family to think about, I disagree that it should be a factor in making the decision. A child should not be responsible for keeping family dynamics in balance ; that is the parents' job. ( I am not talking about a child who is engaging in destructive or dysfunctional behavior)


The decision needs to be made by looking at the needs of the child, the possible options that can address those needs and the ability of the CHILD to benefit from and cope with the possible options. IF those needs and abilities lead to the decision of staying home then, wonderful. However, if it is determined that going away is the best option and the child can handle it, then it is the parents job to put their efforts into developing skills to help the family adjust and cope.


Once a decision is made, however, it is EVERYONE's job to help make it work - child, parents, siblings - even extended family can get in the act. Many ideas have been discussed about staying close emotionally when physically separated...and there are probably many more.......perhaps another thread topic?

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Guest BilboBaggins

Hi Tendumom!!


First, I agree with your last point ... definitely sounds like there's a topic for another thread!!


Going back to the factors in the decision and support, that's a more difficult issue. This thread was started by a 15 year old, and frankly, a very emotionally mature 15 year old (IMHO) ... the decision process for her will be quite different from the one for a 12 year old ... or an 8 year old ... or ... you get the idea. Asking an 8 year old if they want to go to a ballet boarding school and getting a resounding "yes" doesn't mean the family, without any further consideration, should get behind the "decision". Parents have a parental responsibility to make certain that choices are made appropriately and in the best interests of the child, as well as the desire (as parents) to give/permit their children as much freedom and lattitude as appropriate for their age and maturity.


The "unique perspective of dads" thread, towards the end (on p. 4), has a posting by BW regarding a NY Times article link and several books referenced to Dr. Damon. The key quote that caught my attention is:


========== Quote =========

Letting children speak up is not the same as letting them have their way…Permissive parenting…breeds children with poor self-control and a lack of social responsibility, two cornerstones of morality. But overly strict parenting is no better, said Dr. Damon author of The Moral Child and Greater Expectations…You need to talk to your kids from their own perspective and use this as scaffold from which to teach them about our own morals," he said.


But talk is not enough. A crucial component of moral education…is engaging children in positive activities, be they community service, sports, music, theater or anything else that inspires them and gives them a sense of purpose...


========== End Quote ==========


Parents (and the family as a whole) definitely have a responsibility to each and every child ... but each and every child, as a member of that family, also has a responsibility towards the family ...




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I read and reread my post before sending it because this is a sensitive and important topic. But it is difficult to predict how ones ideas will be taken.


I never intended to infer at all that the child should be the one to have primary say ( at any age before 18) in a decision as profound as leaving home at an early age. The parents definitely have the responsiblity to make sure that decisions regarding their children's lives are made appropriately and in the best interests of the child. The parents are the best ones to do this.


My only caveat is that children should not be responsible for keeping a family in balance. A child leaving the home will always - no matter the age (even those who are college-bound ) change the dynamics of a family. How this change is manifested in the family is the responsiblity of the adults in the family system.


What I am saying is that I don't believe that a child should be kept home for the SOLE reason that her/him leaving will cause problems for the parents or remaining siblings.

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Guest BilboBaggins

I think we're pretty much in agreement ... I think a child shouldn't be kept home to maintain the "status quo" ...


There will be times, for example, when the issue is finances, or perhaps an illness in the family, when difficult choices need to be made and when the "good of the family" and the "good of the individual" need to be weighted ... but that's not the case in what we've been discussing.



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