Stage Fright7 min read
Is your child afraid of public speaking? Does he dislike performing an instrument in public even if it’s just in front of family? Stage fright is a very common feeling of anxiousness when one has to speak or perform in front of a group of people. It is a common occurrence in many people irrespective of whether they are children or adults. While some people overcome their stage fright with time and practice, it is not so easy for others. It is completely normal to feel anxious when you have to perform in front of an audience because that’s when all eyes are on you. Let us understand stage fright in some more detail.
What is stage fright?
As we mentioned above, stage fright or performance anxiety is a kind of fear or the feeling of anxiety and stress that a person goes through when they have to speak and/or perform in front of an audience. Although not every child goes through it, stage fright is something that many children do face. They could feel nervousness, anxiety, and fear when they have to perform in front of a crowd, even if it’s a small one. Stage fright in kids can result in a number of physical symptoms like tummy aches, headaches, sweating, vomiting, diarrhea and so on. It can even make them cry and throw tantrums.
Even though having stage fright is pretty normal for kids, there are a number of reasons why it occurs.
What are the causes of stage fright in children?
Stage fright in children could be caused due to a number of reasons. A few of these can include:
Low Self-Esteem and Lack of Confidence
Children can have stage fright either because of lack of confidence or low self-esteem, or both. If your child isn’t yet fully aware of his capabilities and potential, he may feel like he is not good enough to perform in front of an audience. Low confidence levels can affect how a child thinks about himself and his abilities which in turn causes stress and anxiety.
Fear of Judgement and/or Embarrassment
Many children tend to feel afraid of what people in the audience (friends, relatives, teachers, strangers) might think. Children can also feel like they’re being judged and that if they make a mistake then the audience might laugh or make fun of them. Nobody likes being embarrassed in front of a crowd, and children hate the thought of being ridiculed especially in public.
Every child wants to feel appreciated and maybe even get a huge round of applause after they perform. A child might feel like her parents and/or teachers expect a great performance from her. Or maybe she has very high expectations for herself. When children think that they need to perform exceptionally well either for an audience or themselves, they begin to set unattainable goals which they can find hard to reach in the end.
Maybe your child hasn’t had great experiences with performing in the past. Maybe he forgot a line or played the wrong notes, it could be anything. But no matter how small the mistake actually was, it was probably a much bigger deal for your child. This can be another cause for stage fright in the future.
This should be pretty obvious, but children will definitely feel stressed and extremely nervous if they are underprepared. Adequate preparation is not only important to have a good performance but also helps the person feel more confident. If your child isn’t well-prepared there is a greater possibility of her having stage fright.
How can you help your child deal with stage fright?
Although children can overcome their fears over a period of time, it is not uncommon for many to still find it difficult to cope with the pressures of performing. If you’ve noticed that your child struggles with stage fright, don’t be alarmed. Here are a few things you can do to help your child deal with their stage fright in a healthy manner:
Listen to their fears and worries
Sometimes parents believe that telling their kids to just “get over” their nerves or saying things like they’ll be “just fine” might help, but trust us when we say that is the least helpful idea in the book! Repressing feelings of doubt and anxiety is not going to solve your child’s problem. Instead, sit them down and hear them out. Listen to what seems to be troubling them and allow them to open up about their worries and fears. As you actively listen to your child, you will be able to understand where his fears are really coming from.
Practice with them
Since one of the many causes of stage fright includes lack of preparation, make sure that your child is well-prepared before their big day. Practice with your child and help them in areas where they seem to be struggling. You could also ask them to perform in front of their favorite toys. Although this may seem silly, kids tend to have an attachment to their toys and sometimes even give them names and personalities. As your child practices in front of her toys, she will feel more comfortable when her real performance comes along. The bottom line is that practice makes perfect and you want your child to have all the practice she needs!
Explain that no one is perfect
Children have a huge fear of being embarrassed in public. They are afraid that if they mess up everyone in the audience will see it and ridicule them. Remind your child that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Telling them that everyone in the audience is human and has definitely messed up at some point in their lives will help to calm their fears. You could also narrate a personal experience where you or someone you knew made some silly mistakes in public. Assuring your child that making mistakes is not the end of the world is important so that they don’t beat themselves up for it if it does happen.
Reassure them that their worth is not attached to their achievements
If your child is setting extremely high standards for herself, remind her that it’s okay to not have the perfect performance. Teach your child that there will always be ups and downs, and that her worth as a human being is not attached to her successes or her failures. When your child understands that achievements are just small parts of life, she will not worry so much about messing up. Reassure her that you will continue to love and support her no matter what happens on stage.
Give them some helpful pointers
Sometimes your child may need a few practical tips to help him get through a performance. Teaching your child to ground himself before a performance will help. Ask him to calm down and take deep breaths. Suggest focusing on the back of the room or on the wall in front instead of the audience. Children tend to get even more nervous when they look at the audience so telling your child to simply not do that might be of great help. You can also teach your child about pacing so that he doesn’t rush through performance because of anxiety. Another tip that could help your child is telling him to simply laugh it off.
Tell them to believe in themselves and their abilities
Teach your child to practice positive self-talk. Explain to her that feeding negative thoughts into her mind is not going to benefit her at all. Instead, help your child to understand that she is capable of doing certain things and that it is not impossible to perform. Help your child to identify any negative talk and turn it into positive statements. Remind your child that she is amazing and capable of pulling off a great performance.
Encourage them to turn their anxiety into excitement
Anxiety and excitement may be very opposing feelings but they definitely have similar symptoms. Both can get a person’s heart racing and make someone think about something all the more. Research shows that excitement is an effective way to reduce anxiety. So, encourage your child to embrace his anxiety and channel the excitement within him.
We hope these tips come in handy as you help your child to cope with stage fright. Remember to be their biggest cheerleader no matter what and patiently support them through the process of performing. Be positive and have faith that your child will do the best if he has you rooting for him on the side.