Some children, it would seem, are born for the stage. They love the rush of adrenaline before they step out onto the stage, they feel excited as the bright lights hit their face. They eagerly count down the days until their concert, and in some cases, they even wake up each day singing!
But for other children, performing can be a really scary experience. The thought of performing onstage leaves them feeling anxious and scared, and they dread the count down until they have to perform. It can be frustrating for parents to walk this journey with their child, however, a reluctance to perform is very common among children (and even adults).
Here are some tips on encouraging your child to overcome their reluctance to perform.
Normalise the Nerves
Child psychologist Carla Fry says that when a child expresses a sense of anxiousness about performing, the best thing to do is explain that “these kinds of jitters are normal”. It is also helpful to understand the place of nervousness your child is coming from, instead of coming from a place of judgment. Fry also suggests that providing a solution to your child’s response is helpful. For example, when your child tells you they are anxious, try to reply with posing a solution, such as, “Yes it seems like a nerve-racking task. Would you like some help to figure out how to cope with these feelings?”
‘Keep Calm and Carry On’
Fry also emphasises the importance of discouraging parents from allowing their child to avoid the stressful situation completely. She says it is better for the child to learn how to overcome their nerves, unless the nerves are really extreme. Often this type of ‘bite the bullet’ experience is beneficial to children, as they learn to overcome their fears and may even feel a sense of pride afterwards.
In saying that, if a child was genuinely distressed and unwilling to go on stage at a concert (or an in-class solo performance), we would never force them to do so.
From Little Things, Big Things Grow
If your child is terrified by the thought of performing in front of a large crowd, it may be wise to turn small-scale situations into performance opportunities so that they can build up the courage to perform. This is exactly why our students in ArtistReady and StageReady regularly perform solos in front of their peers. Not only will does make children more comfortable singing to people other than their singing teacher, but it normalises the experience of performing.
After the performance
If your child has performed despite their fears, it is important to praise. It sounds obvious, but in the rush of getting home from a concert and getting everyone to bed, it’s easy to forget to actually tell a child how proud you are of them! Not only will this make your child feel proud of their accomplishments, but this positive reinforcement will make the performance experience that bit less daunting the next time around.
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