Ever since Meera was a preschooler, she would refuse to participate in any class activities or games that put the spotlight on her. Soon, her fear escalated into a phobia and she would never agree to perform in front of an audience.
However, the day came when she had to make a science presentation that she could not avoid. As D-day arrived, Meera stood up in front of everyone to give her presentation. Her heart was racing, her palms sweating, and her legs were trembling. Though she knew all the answers she choked and couldn't say a word. Eventually, her legs buckled and she had to walk away from the stage.
What exactly is stage fear?
According to a study published by the American Psychiatric Association (2013), 'Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders', 'performance anxiety is a subtype of social anxiety disorder (SAD). In order for someone to qualify as having SAD, they need to have suffered from persistent fear, anxiety or avoidance for at least 6 months, and to have considerably impaired social, occupational or general functioning'.
Unfortunately, many children and adults suffer from this problem. While you must consult an expert if your child is unable to overcome her stage fright, there are some simple ways you can help her at home.
How to deal with your child's stage fright?
Acknowledge the child's fears: It is important that you do not ignore or trivialise your child's fear of performance. Let him talk about it and give him an opportunity to explain how exactly he feels when he gets on stage. If you know his feelings, you will be better able to deal with them.
Help her practise for the performance: Practice makes perfect, but going through the steps several times before the final day will boost her confidence and help overcome her anxiety to some degree.
Introduce an audience: Help your child understand the content of his presentation so that it is easy for him to improvise in case he forgets his script or some of his dance moves.
Encourage positive thoughts: Teach your child to have a positive attitude and a confident body language. If she has any doubts about herself and her performance, address them one by one and help her overcome her negative thoughts with encouraging words and logical reasoning.
Introduce an audience: Have your child practice in front of a mirror, initially. Once he is comfortable with his body language, you can help him practise in front of a bigger audience, like his family and friends.
Do not expect a lot: For a child suffering from stage fright, it's a big achievement if she manages to even get on the stage. Do not expect a stellar performance from her from the start. Help her recognise the symptoms of anxiety and teach her how to overcome them. Even, if it's a mediocre presentation, appreciate the effort and encourage her to do better next time.
Help him get past mistakes: Mistakes happen and even the most professional, experienced artists commit them. Teach your child that it's okay if mistakes happen, as long as he learns from them.
Help her get excited about the performance: Help your child look at the bigger picture and not just focus on the moment that she has to give a performance. Talk about the costumes (if any) or her friends who are going to perform alongside her. If she has to give a solo performance, talk about all the activities you are going to do as a family after the show is over. Help her realise that this event is not the end of the world and that she'll have your unconditional love and support no matter what.
Be Calm: Children take cues from how adults react and if you are nervous about your child's performance, chances are he will be too. So, take some time to calm your nerves before you help him overcome his fears.
Giving a performance or a presentation can be a stressful situation for anyone. For a child suffering from stage fright, the accompanying anxiety only becomes more. Understand and acknowledge her fears and help her overcome them one performance at a time.