Why performing arts for kids is more important than ever

Performing arts can help children with everything from socialising to language development to physical health – plus it’s fun. Here’s why activities like singing, dancing and acting are good for kids living overseas.

Why performing arts for kids is more important than ever
Performing arts classes, like dancing, can help international kids settle into life overseas. Photo: Stagecoach Performing Arts

For many parents, the past two years has meant juggling homeschooling with new work-from-home routines. Maybe you’ve also thrown life in a new country into the mix, and understandably parental guilt and worry goes through the roof. Will my kids make new friends? How quickly will they learn the language? 

The pandemic has also meant many children haven’t had access to after-school activities. No sport, music lessons, swim training or drama class – in addition to limited social activities and celebrations. We know, it’s been tough. 

As well as the worries over what children have missed out on, there is also concern around the impact on child development. Children depend on both school and extracurricular activities to build their social interaction skills. Research published in Child: Care, Health and Development in March this year shows that online or virtual interactions do not meet these same needs: “The use of virtual communication is convenient but does not replace face-to-face peer interactions.”

Help your child settle in to new life overseas with a performing arts class

The effects of the pandemic

It is unsurprising that the health of young people is negatively affected by the pandemic, with many struggling with feelings of isolation and anxiety. Now, they are having to adapt to social situations again and the negative impact has become even clearer. In January this year, the American Psychological Association announced that “mental illness and the demand for psychological services are at all-time highs – especially among children.”

However, embracing activities like music and art, which help kids to channel their emotions into something creative, are proving to be helpful for children around the world as they settle back into a new normal.

As we emerge from pandemic restrictions, companies like Stagecoach Performing Arts are reporting a rise in demand for their acting, singing and dancing classes. “We have seen a seven percent increase in student numbers since pre-Covid times,” says Andy Knights, CEO of Stagecoach Performing Arts

The company has an impressive 3,000-plus extra-curricular performing arts schools and classes operating in eight countries around the world: Canada, Spain, Malta, Gibraltar, Australia, Germany, UK, Lithuania. Stagecoach Performing Arts also offers exciting programs like Dance the Dream, which gives students the opportunity to dance in a parade at Disneyland Paris. 

“This is an amazing opportunity for [children] to perform in one of the most magical places in the world. Our aim is to provide our students with Creative Courage for Life – and Dance the Dream at Disneyland Paris does just that. It’s also wonderful that they can share the experience with their families,” says Stagecoach Bath Principal, Sandra Moyo.

Keen to run your own business while helping kids have fun and improve their life skills? Stagecoach is currently offering exciting franchise opportunities 

Performing arts classes have a range of benefits for young people. Photo: Stagecoach Performing Arts

Good for mind and body 

Performing arts education – typically classes like acting, dancing and singing – has a number of clear mental and physical benefits for children. A May 2021 paper published by Psychological Thought looked at the effect of performing arts during and post-pandemic. It found that participating in arts projects helps build self-esteem, autonomy, and senses of competence and belonging, all of which are needed to contribute to wellbeing. 

Stagecoach’s Educational Framework provides an opportunity for students to creatively express themselves, which is an important outlet for young people to understand and process their emotions, especially while their communication skills are still developing.

Of course, extracurricular activities like dance are great for kids’ physical fitness too, with plenty of energy burned off during performances and rehearsals. 

Learning life skills

The classes offered by award-winning companies like Stagecoach give children and young people valuable skills for life and assist with socialisation. Beyond taking to the stage to sing, dance and perform, students are learning how to collaborate, listen, take on board feedback and problem solve. 

This is even more relevant for international kids settling into a new country, who will benefit from new friendships, improving language skills, empathy, teamwork skills, and building confidence. 

Importantly, the Stagecoach ethos is to deliver Creative Courage for Life. It’s about teaching students to be confident enough to be themselves by using the skills developed through singing, acting and dance classes. 

Help settling in to a new life

Moving abroad can be a hard time for kids, and even more so in today’s rocky climate. 

After a couple of years of restrictions, people of all ages are keen to meet new friends and join in on new activities in an effort to fill the gap of what’s been missed. So now more than ever, extra-curricular activities like those offered in the performing arts, are important for children’s development.

“Stagecoach continues to grow and expand our network with the objective of teaching Creative Courage for Life to children and young people around the world. Through singing, dancing, and acting, our students develop the skills required to perform on the biggest stage of all – the stage of life,” says Andy Knights, CEO of Stagecoach Performing Arts.  

Particularly if you are new to a country, it can be challenging to find the right after-school classes and opportunities for your kids. Many countries, like Germany, are known to be inconsistent in terms of what is offered.

Signing up to after-school or holiday period classes and workshops in performing arts not only gives kids a chance to shine and develop, it can be a way for parents to feel part of a new community too. And Stagecoach, which has been teaching kids since 1988, has more than 300 franchisees around the world. So whether you want to do something to help your child settle in or if you’re looking for a business idea, this is your sign. 

Would you like to bring arts and theatre to your town? Find out more about running your own Stagecoach business

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What maternity benefits are you entitled to as a freelancer in Germany?

While employees in Germany are entitled to maternity leave and maternity pay, freelancers have to navigate a different set of rules and considerations.

What maternity benefits are you entitled to as a freelancer in Germany?

Being self-employed can be a liberating and exciting career choice. But, while self-employed people enjoy the flexibility and independence of working for themselves, when it comes to maternity benefits, the situation is more difficult than for traditional employees in Germany.

Here’s what maternity benefits self-employed women in Germany are entitled to and what they should be aware of during pregnancy and childbirth.

No automatic Mutterschutz

Under German law, employees are entitled to maternity leave six weeks before and eight weeks after childbirth, during which time they receive maternity pay – 100 percent of their salary. A maximum of €13 per day is paid by their health insurance provider and the rest is topped up by the employer. 

Employed mothers-to-be are legally obliged to take the two months after birth off work completely and can only work during the six weeks before the birth with the express consent of their employer. 

READ ALSO: 7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

However, this protection period doesn’t apply to self-employed mothers – they are allowed to work right up to and immediately after the birth of their child, and they are not automatically entitled to the Mutterschutz benefit. 

But, if you are a self-employed new mother with statutory health insurance and you have been paying the extra monthly Krankengeld (sickness benefit) insurance at least six weeks prior to the birth of your child, you can receive maternity benefits or Mutterschaftsgeld (also referred to as Mutterschutzgeld). 

Freelancers can work straight away after becoming a mother. Photo: Sarah Chai/Pexels

Self-employed mothers can then receive 70 percent of their income from their health insurer through Mutterschaftsgeld and, while receiving these maternity benefits, they are exempt from having to pay health insurance contributions. 

So, if you are planning to have a child as a freelancer, you should plan well in advance to be covered for sickness benefits, ideally before pregnancy. Those who are insured with statutory health insurance but only pay the reduced contribution rate (without Krankengeld) are not entitled to maternity benefits.

Do you have to apply for Mutterschutzgeld?

If you are a freelancer and insured with a statutory health insurer and have paid the additional tariff for Krankengeld, you can apply for maternity benefits from your health insurance fund. You can submit the application no earlier than in the 33rd week after your pregnancy is confirmed by your gynaecologist or midwife.

READ ALSO: More money and less bureaucracy: How Germany wants to change its child benefits system

Self-employed women who are insured through the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK) are also entitled to maternity benefits. The application is made through your health insurance fund, but the KSK must be informed about the receipt of maternity benefits. After giving birth, you have to inform the KSK within eight weeks, during the so-called protection period, whether you will return to work after the deadline. You will not have to pay your monthly contribution payments to the KSK while receiving Mutterschutzgeld.

Private Health Insurance

For self-employed women with private health insurance, the situation differs. Many private insurers exclude daily sickness benefits during the maternity protection period, though some might offer a one-time maternity pay of approximately €200.

READ ALSO: Could it soon get harder to get private health insurance in Germany?

Given the income reduction during maternity leave, it might be worth considering switching to a statutory health insurer before having a child.

Social welfare assistance

In cases where self-employed women face financial challenges due to pregnancy and childbirth, there is an option to seek assistance from the social welfare office. This assistance is directed towards personal circumstances rather than business support.

Parental allowance and child benefit

The good news is that self-employed women in Germany are eligible for parental allowance – Elterngeld – which amounts to 67 percent of their income up to a maximum of  €1,800 per month. The calculation is based on the profit earned after tax deductions, often using the latest tax assessment. In cases where the tax assessment is unavailable, an income and expenditure statement can be used.

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten.

Children ride tricycles at a German kindergarten. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/mauritius images / Westend61 / M | Westend61 / Mareen Fischinger

For self-employed women, parental allowance is paid immediately after birth, unlike employees who receive it after the maternity protection period. When receiving maternity benefits, the entitlement to parental benefits is reduced by two months. 

READ ALSO: Germany to cut parental allowance for higher-earning families from 2024

However, as The Local has been reporting, Germany’s government is planning to cut the threshold for Elterngeld allowance from 2024, so that couples earning a combined total of more than €150,000 per year will no longer be eligible for the benefit.

Paying for health insurance

If you’re employed, you don’t have to pay health insurance during your maternity leave. 

If you are a freelancer and an insured member of statutory health insurance, you usually continue to pay contributions during parental leave – though this may be at a lower rate.

If you have statutory health insurance but would be eligible for family insurance, you are exempt from paying health insurance contributions during your maternity leave. This means you do not have to pay contributions if your spouse is also insured under statutory health insurance, and you meet the requirements for family insurance. However, if your spouse is privately insured, their income is taken into account when calculating your contributions.

Child Benefit

Fortunately, being a freelancer doesn’t exclude you from receiving Kindergeld (child benefit) either.

Almost every child living in Germany is entitled to Kindergeld, which can be applied for and received by one parent. The monthly payments amount to €250 per child per month and can be applied for immediately after the birth of the child. They can also be applied for retroactively, up to a maximum of 6 months after birth.

READ ALSO: What families in Germany need to know about Kindergeld’s replacement from 2025

These monthly payments also go up depending on the number of children a person has. From 2025, however, Kindergeld will be replaced by Kindergrundsicherung – a basic child allowance – which will see parent’s receive €250 per month per child and extra subsidies for low-income families.