I need some ideas to help my 8 yo ds overcome his fear of being in front of an audience. He is in a competitive sport and they are having a "mock meet" in a few weeks to prepare for the upcoming competition season. He LOVES his sport and he was very excited to compete this year. He has worked very hard and is excited about his progress. He isn't worried about how well he will do from a judging standpoint, but he is terrified of the spectators. There are always spectators, families are always watching their own kids and the other athletes as well and that doesn't ever bother him. But the idea that they will be watching HIM has him very worried. Choosing not to compete is not an option for him (in my opinion). In the past it seems that not gently pushing him forward in things that we know he loves and can do has accidentally sent him the message that we didn't believe he could do it. I don't want to make that mistake with him again. I realize that for some kids just not doing it would be the best option, but considering his personality I don't think that would be what is best for him.
His anxiety over crowds is not limited to his sport, he is also worried about a few upcoming events at school. The xmas concert will require him to be in front of an audience. Also, his class will be leading a part of an upcoming school assembly and he does not want to do it. He recently received an award at school and going in front of the school to get his certificate had him nervous.
I am hoping someone has some ideas that can help us help him overcome this anxiety. Strategies we could practice with him when he is about to go in front of a group, or things he can do when he is feeling nervous would be great!
what has helped my dd deal with anxiety over her issues are -
- first just accepting certain things are hard. but they are things too that has to be done. there is no way out. do you want your life ruled by those fears where it can affect what you enjoy. so starting from a point of acceptance is v. v. important. to recognize that fear exists and that there is no way around it.
- THEN you come up with strategies that help you deal with the fear. the thing to also realize in this case is that this is a v. common fear. he is not the only one. some have it v. deep some can cope. i mean toast masters is not just to speak well in public but also to help with your anxiety in coping with the fear and still doing a good job.
- some relaxed time before. making sure he is not hungry or too full. a worry stone in the pocket. focus on an inanimate thing rather than look at the audience. breathing exercise.
Thanks for your reply. With two other children with major anxiety issues you would think I would be a pro, but apparently not :)
I have used worry stones with much success with my eldest, but due to the nature of the sporting event he will not have pockets! We have been talking nightly about strategies to help him feel better. I have discussed it with his coach who will work on keeping him calm and focused. He is also trying to help ds feel pride in all he has accomplished instead of focusing on this one event.
In addition I spoke to his teacher. She will work with him on reading his part in front of the school so he feels more comfortable. If he is still scared she will not force him, but just read it for him. She thinks it will be helpful to have the kids speak more in front of class for projects (nothing serious, just casual things) so she will start doing more of that so that he and his classmates get more experience being in front of others.
I really appreciated the advice that you just have to accept it needs to be done and it will be hard and to work from that perspective. That has been very helpful as a starting point for him. It is hard, you will have to do it, so what can we come up with to help you get through it?
FRmama my dd has had anxiety i feel since she was born. not a chemical imbalance requiring medicine - but definitely anxiety since she was a baby. i think i finally noticed it as anxiety when she was a new 3 year old (i discovered in retrospect) and suddenly her stomach aches (for which i had done everything physical and medicinal) went away when i quit that terrible job and took another. oh i was so upset it took me so long to discover that when she had been having unexplained tummy aches all her life that would magically vanish.
watching her and recalling my mom (a seasoned worrier) i realised a 'band-aid' approach - a quick fix one absolutely would not work as any kind of support to dd. so at 5 when everything peaked for dd, i started the 'sometimes life sucks' philosophy. we started looking at all our choices and finding that there is the 'good' and 'bad' to everything. as i pointed out that at times and as i started talking about my own process of failures and successes adn fears aloud - i think it helped dd greatly.
while growing up and maturity has helped dd some with dealing with her anxiety, i think the talking and just seeing it for what it is has really helped dd GREATLY.
the shoulder shrug "whatever" (not in a disrespectful way, but shit happens kinda way) has helped dd curtail the anxiety she sees coming. once she is in it, she struggles to get out of it.
now i have started our new philosophy - to realise the fear is in her head. its a perception. why is she giving her mind such a huge control over all of her.
this kind of talk, this kind of reasoning is extremely important to dd. and to see me go thru it myself is v. important for her too. i think it greatly helps her when she has to do the mom its ok - u can do it, etc for my public speaking.
yeah i know u think u should be a pro with two other kids with anxiety - but then dealing with my mom i know why you arent a pro. my approach to her anxiety is so much different than dd.
Have you read: Freeing Your Child from Anxiety by Tamar Chansky? It's got some good strategies that work even for 'short term' anxiety.
I'm also in the middle of reading The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel -- it is really helping me see ways to help my daughter with her self regulation. I own very few parenting books, but this is one I'm going to buy. It talks about strategies to help kids link the more emotional parts of their brains with the more thinking parts. It's got some strategies for precisely this kind of anxiety too.