Surviving the holiday pageant

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There they were, all in their white shirts and red slacks, Santa hats on, bells in hand, singing along with the teacher. “It was picture perfect,” says Hanna J, of Aurora, Ontario. “Until they rolled out a huge gift box.”
Hanna’s son, Michael, was away for the last rehearsal. When another student jumped out of the box on stage, Michael started to scream and scream. “Chaos broke out! I didn’t know what to do; I ran to the stage and grabbed him. Guess that whole acting career is finished.”

Although Michael’s Tony Award is doubtful, reminding and assuring your children that it’s just fine if it all doesn’t go as planned is key to having a wonderful experience.

Survival means planning

Here are some tips to making pageant night go as smoothly as it can:

  • Try on the outfit several days ahead of time. Did your child outgrow that white turtleneck? Is the zipper in the red skirt jamming? Take care of any wardrobe malfunctions long before the rush to the stage.
  • Rehearse (if your child wants you to). But avoid criticizing. Be encouraging and upbeat. Make it fun.
  • Plan a light but filling meal if you’ll be eating prior to the big performance. Something in a slow cooker, like a favourite soup, would be warming and light pre-performance. Don’t introduce a new meal for that night. If your child has a very nervous tummy, offer a light dinner and save the meal until after as a post-performance party celebration.
  • If needed, call the school to confirm the instructions your child gave you regarding times, where to drop them off, what outfit to wear and how many guests may attend. The excitement of the pageant may have scrambled some information.
  • If you can, invite grandparents, aunts or uncles. Children love to be the centre of attention in their relatives’ lives. If you have other children who are not going to be part of the pageant, remind them, if they are old enough to understand, that this is their brother or sister’s day, but that you remember their pageants and how well they did in theirs.
  • Be prepared with a video camera to record the event. You can plug it into the TV for that post-performance party. And remember, even if your child completely forgot the lyrics to Rudolph, or broke down into tears instead of saying the right lines, focus on how much you enjoyed the pageant.
  • If you have a young child as an audience member, be ready with something to entertain them. Avoid anything that will disturb other audience members. Arrange ahead of time with your partner/ spouse the arrangements for removing a crying sibling, but sure you do have a camera to capture the highlights.

Signs of stage fright

  • Giggling
  • Nervous talking
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Frequently running to the potty
  • Quick, short breaths
  • Withdrawal from conversation
  • Dry mouth or throat, sweating
  • Becoming short tempered

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, Winter 2008.

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