Parents and Conventions :: P1 Parent's Guide to Anime
As I stress out about Anime Expo next week and try to get ready for the Artists Alley, I'm thinking it might be appropriate to start my parents columns off with talking about parenting at conventions. First, let's go through the different age group concerns and how to deal with them at a convention This is great for both parents and older siblings who are trying to bring in siblings or who need to counter the "well, we don't want to take your baby brother..." argument. Then, I'll leave you with some tips on what the liberated parent can do at a convention while their teens are off playing.
I hope you find this useful (or good reading to forward on to your own parents) and be sure to stop by my table if you happen to be at Anime Expo!
Parents At Conventions
Conventions can be a lot of fun. Whether you are an avid anime fan introducing your child to their first convention or a parent reluctantly convinced to play chaperone, you can still have a great time at an anime con with your kids.
What age is appropriate for their first con?
This is an incredibly tough question, and one that comes down to knowing your child well enough to know how they are going to handle being in a busy room with lots of other people for many hours. So let’s look at concerns by age:
0-3 Years – While illness may be a minor consideration at this age, most parents and doctors agree that for the average baby, there is no harm in being among other people. Now, you don’t want someone coughing on your kid, but you don’t really want them coughing on you either. So unless your doctor has specifically said your kid might be susceptible to diseases right now (such as if they are preemie), then this isn’t a concern.
Something that might be a problem though is the method of transportation for your child at the con. Baby slings or backpacks are going to be useful in the crowded hallways, as strollers are often more of a hassle than they are helpful. As your child gets older, an umbrella stroller might be useful, since those are more flexible to navigate through a crowded room and can be easily collapsed when you are in a panel.
Another thing to think about is that none of us want to listen to your baby scream. Having a child is not a reason to lock yourself up at home, but it is a commitment to take care of your child’s needs and make sure that those needs do not hurt the comfort of others. If your child wakes up from a nap and cries, you need to leave the panel and attend to their needs.
As they get older, they aren’t going to want to sit still in panel rooms, and there isn’t going to be much you can do about it. That’s where tag team parenting comes in, and I wouldn’t recommend that you attend an event with a child this young by yourself. Get together with some friends or other parents who want to attend, and take turns taking a break with the babes so that everyone gets some time to enjoy the convention.
At this early of an age, the actual value of the convention to your child is minimal. It can be a way to get out and learn to deal with other people, but even towards the age of three, they probably won’t be distracted by the shinies for very long. Really, at this age, they are there because you want to be there and there wasn’t a babysitter around. And that’s fine. It just means you have more responsibility to your fellow con-goers.
3-6 Years – By this age, they are probably getting to actually recognize Pikachu or Vash, whatever you may let them watch. Now the ability to sit still is still a major issue, but there might be more activities that can catch their interests. Craft areas can be a lot of fun right now, and some conventions have specific activities set up for kids under the age of ten.
All previous comments about courtesy do still apply. While most people understand that kids act, well, like kids, that doesn’t mean they want to have to deal with it firsthand. Many attendees are single teens/early twenties, and they are not there to babysit. Keep track of your kid and monitor their crankiness levels.
Art by Nightambre
Parents, remember there is a difference between being supportive and being embarrassing!
6-10 Years – Okay, now your kid is beginning to have fun and be interested in the convention. They are probably starting to have enough of an attention span to sit through some panels and pay attention to what is going on. Now’s a great time to let your child take part in planning what they are going to do at the convention.
10-13 Years – And now the attitude starts. This is the age where they are going to want to be separated from you, and you might be tempted to let them meander by themselves for a while.
The problem with that is that most delinquency is caused by this age group at conventions. I’d recommend knowing your child very well at this age before you let them off by themselves, and check the convention rules. Many conventions require that parents stay with their kids up until at least the age of thirteen, if not fifteen.
One way to give them privacy while they are still under the age of thirteen (or even up to fifteen at some cons) is to simply be in the same area, but out of hearing distance. That way you can keep an eye on what is going on, but allow your pre/teen to have space with their friends.
13-18 Years – Many cons require that parents still be on the premises with their minors, and really, this is good for your child’s safety. If your teen doesn’t have a cell phone, try to make sure they have one at least for the convention, in case of emergency.
Check the rules for the con that you are attending and see what the age limits are. Even if you are not required to stay on site with your teen and you trust your teen to be by himself or herself, make sure to be accessible throughout the day.
What Parents Can Do While Their Teen Plays
So once your offspring is old enough that you just want to be in the same building, but not following them around, what can you do?
Well, anime cons tend to not only offer a large variety of anime related activities, but they also have many culture related panels. This can be a great time to learn about the Japanese tea ceremony or how to play a new game. There are also often panels like Anime 101 and Parent’s Guide to Anime, which can be a great place for parents to learn more about their child’s love. Anime viewing rooms can be a way to pass your time and watch shows that your teen watches as well. Crafts are becoming more and more popular at cons, too, and the devoted crafting rooms are always fun to hang out in.
Check over the program and ask your teen what kinds of activities they would recommend for you to do. Also, express an interest in attending a few panels or viewings with them.