” I am having butterflies in my tummy. Would I be able to do good? What if I freeze and forget my lines on stage?” Are these lines sounds familiar to you? Does your child has gone through this phase when s(he) has to present something on stage but is nervous about it? This is nothing but stage fright or performance anxiety.
Every child goes through this phase. With changing time, children have to be confident in in public speaking. At schools, they get many occasions from elementary school level when they have to give presentations. Such times, if the child is not comfortable with it then it affects his/her performance. Whether it be 5 minutes speech or 15 minutes talk, being comfortable on mike is a talent which can be developed with some efforts. Not everybody is born with this.
So, let’s talk about Stage fright first and then look into what can be done to get over it. I am not going by any definition but to me stage fright is an anticipation of uncertainity or performance anxiety. In other words, it’s a feeling about “what if things go wrong on stage?”. To make it even more simpler then “what will happen if I forget everything on stage? What will happen then? People will laugh at me”. If it is not addressed and taken care of at early stages, the anticipation becomes a permanent feeling.
Now, let’s move forward towards how to handle it and how to help kids in dealing with stage fright. When a child is scared of something, as a parent, what do we do? Do we advice to keep on getting scared and never face it? No right? Here comes the first pointer.
- Face the crowd: Yes, I start with this step. To overcome the stage fright, we should encourage the child to face it. Get on the stage. It’s a big deal for them. But we have to keep on encouraging them. How?
- Start early: We don’t realize but talking to an unknown crowd can start from an early age. We don’t have to wait for some debate competition to build up their confidence. Every time, stage doesn’t mean a big area where they have to talk on the microphone and give a solo performance. Talking to the guests, ordering their food in a restaurant can be good start. I remember, when my daughter was in preschool, they had to do their Christmas program. Her director said, it’s so much fun watching these little kids singing on stage, they all are in their own world, least bothered about who is watching them. She further said, I tell the parents even if your child doesn’t sing a single word on stage but if they stay on the stage throughout the program then also its an achievement. They might call you or waive at you from the stage. That’s okay. At least they are learning the stage manners.
So, don’t lose any opportunity to let your child participate in school performances. Don’t underestimate pre school level performances.
- Never scold them for not giving their best: I will give you an example, once one of my friends was concerned about her son who was in preschool as he didn’t sing a single song on the stage even though he made both mom and dad bored with those songs at home. After the program, when I met her, she said Alpana, he didn’t sing at all. He did few actions that’s it. I told her what the my daughter’s director told me. I said, don’t scold him for not singing or don’t ask why did you do like that? Its not going to help. But it will give him a feeling that he made you upset.
Now come to little older kids.
- Let them write their own script: This is applicable to little older kids. I started asking my daughter to write her own script once she entered in 3rd grade. Whenever she has any project, I ask her to write what she want to say. And later I edit it. Writing their own script help them in having control over their thoughts. Even if they forget something they know how to keep the flow going. When they have the control, they will be more confident.
- Record their talk at home: This a very helpful and effective practice. When your child is practicing at home, record it and let the see it. It will give them a good idea about their expressions, gestures, tone, volume, pitch and prononciation. They will be more polished before presenting it.
- Learn from others: After they are done, discuss their experience. Ask them if they like anyone else? What are the things they liked in it.
- Keep Calm: Don’t rush your presentation/talk. Start slow and allow yourself time to get into a comfortable pace.
- First five minutes are important: Tell them to focus on just getting through the first five minutes as by this time they will have already calmed down and the rest is downhill.
These are few of my ideas on helping kids in dealing with stage fright. Main thing is to work with it. The more they resist their anxiety, the more it will work against them. I would love to hear what you have to say about stage fright and how do you handle it?