Does your child get butterflies before auditions and school concerts? Being nervous is normal, but when the nerves get out of control, they can hold your child back, not letting them show their real talent. Over 40% of adults in the U.S. suffer from performance anxiety and dread public speaking, so it’s very important to learn to manage it at an early age.
Understanding stage fright
Did you know that the symptoms of stage fright are similar to symptoms that occur when a person is in danger? These symptoms may include:
• Racing pulse and rapid breathing
• Dry mouth and tight throat
• Shaking hands and knees
• Trembling voice
• Sweaty and cold hands
• Uneasy feeling in stomach and nausea
• Vision becomes blurry or tunneled.
There are many reasons why people feel anxious before a public performance, but the most common fears are being unprepared, forgetting the lines, and embarrassing themselves. People are uncertain about how they will be perceived, and your child is no different.
Practice, practice, practice
Forgetting the lines in front of an audience is one of the biggest nightmares for any performer. So, first and foremost, your child should know their lines forwards and backwards. While adults can wiggle out of the situation with the help of improvisation, it doesn’t come as easy for children who have less life experience.
Encourage your child to speak in front of a mirror or to record a video and then watch it to understand what they do well and how they can improve. If they’re doing a good job, let them know! To your kids, your approval matters the most.
A good way to fight performance anxiety is practicing in conditions that are as close to the actual performance conditions as possible. This means wearing the actual costume or outfit, practicing body language and breathing. Once your child is in the spotlight, they will feel much more comfortable thanks to rehearsals at home.
Get your child in the right state of mind
If your child has the lines down but the nerves kick in anyway, it’s important to acknowledge their anxiety and normalize their fears. Try to avoid saying things like “Just calm down,” “It’s not that big of a deal,” “Focus on the positive!” Avoiding fears only gives them more power.
Here’s a tip worth trying out. Allow your child to be nervous for a certain period of time. On the day of the concert or audition, tell them they can be nervous for a certain amount of time, but that at, say, 3:00 PM, all anxiety will go out the door.
Another tip to help your child shift their attention, is to tell them to focus on the opportunity that they have: to stand in front of an audience and do what they like. Get your child excited and help them see the joy of public speaking. If you can re-direct your child’s focus on to the opportunity, their enthusiasm will take care of the rest.
Body calming techniques
When we get anxious, we tighten everything in our body which is really bad for the blood flow. Oxygen is like magic, so here are some exercises to keep it flowing:
•Slow and deep breathing, getting ready slowly and talking in a soft voice will help lower the heart rate. Try to plan the day ahead to avoid any rush.
•A simple and very common practice is mindfulness meditation. Encourage your child to sit up straight, close their eyes and focus on breathing. Bring their attention back to breathing every time their mind wanders.
•Tell your child to turn their palms up, take a deep breath in, and exhale the “T” sound, “t, t, t, t, t…” This will help them feel more focused.
•Laughter is good medicine. Watching a cartoon or a funny YouTube video in the morning of the audition day will lift the mood and take the pressure off.
•Another fun exercise that can help kids relax: show your child how to stiffen and relax each of their limbs, wiggling them like floppy noodles.
Talk through the worst outcome
Those who suffer from stage fright tend to expect the worst. Talk through everything your child is worried about, from tripping on their way to the stage to having their mind go blank in the middle of the monologue. What’s the worst thing that can happen? You can tell them that regardless of how the audition or concert goes, you will do something together, like go out for a smoothy. Having specific plans will help your child feel more secure.
Our advice is to practice relaxation techniques every day, regardless of whether your child has a performance on that day, so that the skill is there whenever your child needs it. A rational approach, paired with body-calming techniques, will help your child overcome the stage fright and deliver their best performance.
Try these tips out before the next audition and see which one works best!