Helping a Child Deal with Stage Fright
By Adrienne Warber
Stage fright or performance anxiety is common among children, especially young children who must perform in front of an audience of strangers for the first time. Performing can be scary for young children. Learn how to ease your child’s anxiety and get her more comfortable with performance situations.
Why Children Get Stage Fright
The first few times that a young child performs may bring about shyness or stage fright because the child is frightened by suddenly becoming the focus of attention for a group of people. She may forget her dance steps or the words of a song she is suppose to sing with her class because of feeling scared or self-conscious from all the attention. She may freeze in place and simply stare wide-eyed at the audience. Or she may cover her face or turn her back to audience in effort to escape the attention of the crowd.
Stage fright is normal and usually temporary. However, for some kids it will be a persistent problem even if they like the activity involved in the performance. For example, some children love dancing in dance class but hate performing in recitals. Yet many great professional actors and dancers overcame stage fright as children and even still conquer it regularly in adulthood but still continue to perform successfully. So stage fright does not have to be a barrier to continuing an activity that the child loves.
Play and Practice Techniques to Get Rid of Stage Fright
Both play and practice techniques can help a child feel less frightened during performance. Here are some tips for games and ways to encourage practice that can help with performance anxiety:
- Give incentives for completing the performance: For young children who freeze in dance class and do not even attempt to dance, providing incentives, such as a toy reward or going out for ice cream, can help the child get the courage to try the dance steps during a recital.
- Toy audience recital: Have your child perform for an audience of her stuffed animals and dolls to make the idea of an audience less frightening.
- Dress-up practice: Play a game of dress-up in fun costumes with your child. After getting in the costume, the two of you must go through her dance steps or song together.
- Treasure hunt for lines: If your child is in a play and having trouble remembering lines when she get anxious, a treasure hunt may be the answer. Create a number of clue cards relating to the child’s lines in the play. The child must say her lines to answer the clues. At the end of the treasure hunt, she finds a reward for learning her lines.
- Silly songs: Silly songs are a fun way to remember the words to songs your child has to memorize for school performances. Sing the song in funny voices of various tones with your child. You both can get loud and dance around to the song. The more the child repeats the song, the better she remembers the lines.
- Talk to your child: Talk to your child and ask her to explain why she get scared during performances. Listen carefully and try to address her concerns. Talking about fears can sometimes be the most effective treatment for stage fright.
Take the time to work through your child’s performance anxiety and it will eventually get better. After the child has performed a number of times and grows more self-confident and secure about performing in front of people, she will let go of stage fright.