10 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Stage Fear

Sweaty palms, breathlessness, rapid pulse rate, knots in the stomach, quivering lips, trembling voice – sounds familiar? All signs of stage fear. We tell you how you can help your child tackle this.

By YES Balabharathi and Saravana Kumar

10 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Stage Fear

10-year-old Ramesh was all set to deliver the opening speech at his school’s Annual Day function. He had rehearsed for a good one week and was in fine form during the rehearsals. But, the moment he got on to the stage after a rapturous welcome by the gathering, he froze. Ramesh couldn’t utter a word and his hands were trembling. There are many children who struggle to cope on the ‘big stage’. Ramesh is an example.

Stage fear tops the list of fears of people throughout the world, almost equalling the fear of flying and of heights. Even great personalities, including politicians, actors and corporate honchos, are said to have experienced this. You too might have experienced this during your school or college days, when you had to step on to the stage for a performance. Even a simple announcement on the stage can be scary for some of us. What about our children? Today, an on-stage performance is seen as not just an extracurricular activity, but an important life skill. Shouldn’t we groom our children to perform without fear? Here are some tips to help you do just that:

10 Ways to beat stage fright

  1. Good preparation and practice: Whatever the nature of the performance, preparation is the key to success. After all, someone rightly said, ‘there is no glory in practice, but without practice, there is no glory’. Your child can practice by imagining herself to be on the stage facing a huge audience. She can also stand before a mirror and practice. It will help her manage her facial expressions, body language and stage performance effectively. Teach her also to be her own critic and correct her mistakes.
  2. Staying relaxed: Let not your child be scared at the very thought of getting on to the stage. Teach him to stay calm by meditating or doing yoga. Let him also engage in simple physical exercises like stretching or skipping. Listening to soothing, pleasant music will also be of great help. Taking a deep breath just before stepping on to the stage is a must.
  3. Taking nutritious diet: On the big day, let your child eat healthy and nutritious food that’s light on the stomach. Don’t give her a heavy meal. Include a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in her diet. Let her strictly avoid coffee and other caffeinated drinks. Lemonade can be a good alternative.
  4. Being positive: Let your child believe in himself and never entertain negative thoughts of messing up with the performance. Teach him to be confident and optimistic. Let him continuously keep visualising the scene where he would receive a standing ovation from the audience after a fantastic performance. Such a mental picture will go a long way in boosting his self-esteem.
  5. Seeking advice: Let your child never hesitate to take advice and tips from those who perform well on the stage. In addition, encourage your child to take your help and the help of teachers, relatives and friends in preparing for the performance.
  6. Arriving early: It is essential that your child reaches the venue of the performance well in advance. Only then can he stay relaxed. If he is late, it will only add to his tension and nervousness.
  7. Befriending the audience: Your child should learn to win over the audience by smiling at them and establishing a ‘connect’ with them. Talking casually to a few people among the audience before the start of the performance would also help her win their trust and confidence.
  8. Maintaining the right pace: When it comes to speaking, one big mistake that your child may tend to commit is being too fast. This is because of nervousness. This might make him stumble over words and mispronounce. So, train him to speak at a slow and steady pace, with judicious use of pauses in his speech.
  9. Being natural: Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Therefore, let not your child fret over errors and be upset, if she is not perfect. She can learn and improve from every experience. Teach her to be natural and honest.
  10. Converting anxiety to excitement: A Harvard Business School study conducted by Alison Wood Brooks in 2013 found that people who viewed their anxiety as excitement performed well in all kinds of tasks. This can be a very big step in getting rid of your child’s stage fear. Let him learn to perceive his nervousness and fear as excitement and thrill. This will help him perform with full confidence. At the end of the day, it is about performing on the big stage, which is especially important considering the competitive world we live in. You, as a parent, should guide your child in his preparations and make him better with each performance. Be a part of the audience and give him your honest feedback. Being his best critic will certainly help him improve. Cheer him up and lend moral support. Together, you can put his fears to rest.

“I still suffer terribly from stage fright. I get sick with fear. Not every night, but at the beginning and on occasion - not necessarily when I'm expecting it. You just have to cope with it - take it on the chin and work through it, trying to use the adrenalin to perform” – Helen Mirren, the recipient of an Academy Award for Best Actress!

Yes, coping with fear and using the excitement to give an excellent performance is what matters. Let us teach our children this.