*Note: we are still in the midst of a global pandemic, so if you decide to go to a show (and I totally think you should!) make sure you do so safely.*
My husband and I are huge music fans. While I wouldn’t say that my time in the church choir or school marching band makes me a “musician,” my husband is a drummer and can play almost any instrument he picks up. He’s played in several bands over the last 20+ years that I’ve known him and music is a huge part of our lives.
As such, my husband and I have always found it important to expose our children to music. We listen to music in our house almost constantly, we watch music documentaries and concerts on tv, and we have instruments galore around our house for the kids to pick up and play.
I’ve always been a concert-goer. I went to my first show when I was three — Kenny Rogers with my parents — and have gone to just about any concert I could ever since. From bluegrass and country, to hip hop, rock, metal, folk, festivals — you name it, I’ve seen it live! It stands to reason that we would want to take our kids to concerts with us as well. We’ve learned over the years how to do live shows with kids: what is and is not appropriate depending on their ages, how to manage travel and late nights, and what to be prepared for.
So, here it is: your Cool Mom’s Guide to Taking Your Kids to Concerts.
Although my amazing parents took me to see The Gambler when I was three, I can’t say I have ever taken a child that young to an indoor concert. Children under age 10 or so will likely be overwhelmed by a large, indoor or stadium concert and no one is going to have much fun. We did take our oldest to a UT football game when he was a toddler and it was one of the top 10 most stressful experiences ever. Lesson learned.
Shows for smaller children should be low-key, outdoor, music-on-the-square type shows. There are lots of these around Chattanooga, from the Chattanooga Farmers’ Market on Sundays to Cambridge Square in Ooltewah on Friday evenings, and these are a great introduction to live music. When my boys were little, we would go to a local show on Friday nights throughout the summer. It was free — which is great because we usually had to leave early — and small, so the kids could be up and dancing or eating ice cream while the musicians performed.
Around age 10, we’ve been able to take our boys to bigger shows. At that age, it’s a good idea to not spend a lot on tickets or make it a once-in-a-lifetime type artist that you don’t want to miss — there’s still a chance you’ll have to leave early. My best friend and I took my oldest to see Usher when he was 10 and, although it was a great experience, we did have to spend some time away from the crowd because he became overwhelmed. I managed to take all four boys to Riverbend one year, but we spent more time wandering around, looking for snacks than actually watching the shows.
Another great option once kids are tweens are lower-key artists such as The Avett Brothers. When my oldest boys were 12 and 10, we took them to an Avett Brothers show in Atlanta. It was a smaller, theater show with comfy seats and room to move and we all had a great time! Kids this age might still need hearing protection, so consider that before you go. If the concert is out of town, spend the night in a hotel if you can. Not only does a night in a hotel make it more fun, but it prevents the exhaustion of having to deal with traffic and a late drive home. Also: snacks. Hungry people are not fun.
Now that our oldest is 14, we have ventured into bigger, louder shows. He loves it and so do we! Once kids are teenagers, it’s not the noise or late nights that you have to consider as much as it is the language, outfits, and — ahem — extracurricular activities that your child will encounter at concerts. As a former wild child this is something I wish I’d been exposed to with a little guidance, rather than left to explore on my own or with friends.
So, before you decide to go all in and take your teen to a Green Day concert (I speak from experience), have a conversation about the following:
- Language. This is an ongoing conversation in our house. My kids are aware of most, if not all, of the “bad words.” There are certain words we just don’t say and others that are used when appropriate. Let them know your standards on language, what is expected of them (can they say the word if it’s in a song?), and what they might end up hearing. Talk about why you do or do not use such language. When Fall Out Boy asks the crowd to sing along during “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” your kid needs to be ready to either say “G-D” or “gosh diddly darn” with confidence.
- Clothing. I will admit I wasn’t quite prepared for this. What girls wear to concerts really hadn’t crossed my mind, as I tend to dress like a super cool 40-year-old (ripped jeans and a band tee), but OH MY. Whether you have sons or daughters, there needs to be a conversation about what you might see, how to react/respond, and what your family’s beliefs are on showing skin. Because you will likely see a lot of skin.
- Drugs and alcohol. Some shows are more raucous than others, but almost all have some sort of drug and/or alcohol use amongst fans. This is another ongoing conversation at our house, but seeing people under the influence opens the door to being able to drive the conversation deeper. Don’t ignore it. Talk about the pros and cons. Remind kids of the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and be an example for how to have a great time sober!