Take a pause before you start imagining a starving artist when your teen declares, “I want to be a dancer (or singer, musician, novelist, or artist)!”

Life in the arts can be difficult as income may be unpredictable, making you worry about your child’s future financial independence. However, some artists make a decent living from a creative career. Others manage by pursuing both their artistic practice wholeheartedly and earning additional income by teaching their craft in schools, working on a freelance basis for corporate clients, or taking on additional ventures such as selling real estate or insurance.

Know where you stand

Consider what your definition of success is. Financial wealth or being materially comfortable is important, but success can also mean being happy, healthy, and fulfilled. It can involve being able to reach your life goals—whatever those goals may be. And the arts can be a fulfilling career choice, as it is a profession that is often associated with pursuing a passion.

Determine how much financial support you are willing to provide. This includes helping to pay for the necessary training in the chosen field, even when your teen becomes an adult. This helps to set your child’s expectations for your financial support in their artistic pursuits.

What to say to your teen

Talk to your teen to determine more precisely what path they want to pursue. Some conversational points you can talk about include:

1. Artistic dreams

Ask if the arts are your teen’s main dream, or are there other passions? Does your teen want to pursue this dream full-time or on a part-time basis? Will they be prepared to make the sacrifices to be in a creative career that may mean a smaller pay cheque?

2. Practical questions

Has your teen thought about an alternative way to supplement his or her income in the future? For example, your child has dreams of being a novelist. Are they prepared to start by being a freelance writer or part-time copywriter to earn some income while crafting that novel?

3. Training needed

What are the skills required for your teen to succeed in the chosen artistic practice? Are there role models or teachers to learn from? What path does your teen want to pursue in school? Provide insights into related fields. For example, if your teen dreams of being an artist, suggest looking at related jobs that may be in high demand, such as web designer, graphic designer, illustrator, or printmaker.

Ultimately, keep in mind that this is your teen’s life. You may have little say over your teen’s goals and directions, unless your teen is still financially dependent on you as an adult. Above all, your support and encouragement will go a long way towards helping your teen lead a fulfilling and successful life.