Fear of Public Speaking

Does your child have a fear of public speaking? Well, he’s in good company! The fear of public speaking is right at the top of people’s greatest fears and phobias. The thought of embarrassing one’s self in front of people critiquing every move is very anxiety-provoking for almost everyone.

If your child has a fear of public speaking, it’s good to address it early on. Even though it’s normal, it’s also in his or her way. There are so many occasions in life that demand public speaking: giving school reports and later on, business reports, participating in classes, making speeches in social settings like graduations, weddings, the celebrations of one’s children, funerals and so on. There’s a lot to be gained from being able to speak comfortably in front of a group. Aside from skills in being a good communicator, successful public speaking also builds self-confidence, logic, and excellent communication skills. As an extra-curricular activity, or as a support for everyday school and work life, public speaking has a lot to offer.

The following are some tips in helping a child master a fear of public speaking:

Teach Self-Help Skills to Manage Anxiety
If possible, teach your child EFT (emotional freedom technique) or have a professional practitioner teach it. This speedy acupressure  technique can be done the night before, and again right before, a presentation to completely remove the butterflies, settle the nerves and help your child do his or her best. It can be learned in one or two sessions and there are lots of on-line video and text support for further training and information.

In addition, you can offer your child Rescue Remedy – a water-based harmless remedy available at health food stores and on-line, that can often immediately calm anxiety.  A few drops in water, or sprayed in the mouth or splashed on the wrists right before speaking (and the night before), can help tremendously. Rescue Remedy is also available in chewing gum and candy form in many places.

Also, you can teach your child how to slow his or her breath down in order to turn off the rush of adrenaline. Visualization techniques can help too: have the child imagine everyone clapping and cheering after his or her speech. Have him or her draw pictures of smiling faces in an audience and post them around the house. This can desensitize the brain and help grow the expectation of a successful outcome. If your child still feels uncomfortably anxious after trying these interventions, consider consulting a mental health professional for further help. This is especially important to follow-up with if your child is already a teen since teenagers have more occasion to engage in public speaking.

Start Small
Is your child willing to practice a speech with you? If so, help out. Otherwise, enlist the help of a sibling or even a speech instructor.  Whoever does it – the principles are the same.  Start small by delivering simple, short pieces (how about a two minute speech on how much you like jam?) It’s also good to cut down to a small audience (just one person) while mastering one’s fears.

Help Your Child Rehearse What He or She is Going to Say
One of the scarier things about public speaking is the fear of forgetting the words or stuttering in the middle of a speech. These fears can be addressed by constant practice. Help your child rehearse his or her speech or book report in front of a mirror several times before the big day. Teach him how to make cue cards for the bits they tend to forget. Introduce simple memory aids like cue cards.. The more a child rehearses, the more he or she will be confident in speaking in front of a group.

No Pressure
It’s helpful to reduce performance pressure. Don’t build up such a frenzy that the child will be terrified of letting the whole family down. In fact, it isn’t even necessary to emphasize how excellent the performance was even if it was – but rather emphasize how much fun it was for you to see the child on stage. By taking the pressure off, you allow the child to grow more gently and naturally into his or her speaking skills.

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