Do you remember the feeling when in school, your teacher would suddenly point at you to answer a question?
That unique sense of dread is caused by the sudden attention placed on you. That uneasiness to not embarrass yourself in front of your classmates. It's like being thrown into a den of lions, except the lions are your peers, and the den is your classroom.
Little did you know then you were experiencing the fear of public speaking.
And now, your child must be going through the same.
Public speaking can be scary, even for adults, let alone children.
According to psychologists, childhood fears often persist into adulthood. For instance, a fear of dogs may stem from a negative childhood experience. Similarly, fear of public speaking can be carried over into adulthood, causing anxiety and discomfort in social or professional settings.
Addressing public speaking fear in childhood helps children learn techniques to manage anxiety and improve their public speaking skills.
In this blog, we will offer 7 easy tips to help your child overcome the fear of public speaking and pave their path to being effective communicators.
Let’s jump right in:
- Understanding the Fear of Public Speaking in Children
- Importance of Public Speaking For Kids
- 7 Tips To Help Your Child with the Fear of Public Speaking
- Final Thoughts
Understanding the Fear of Public Speaking in Children
A. Common causes and triggers
A study concludes that the most significant internal factor that contributes to the fear of public speaking is nervousness.
When it comes to speaking in front of others, many people, including children, experience a sense of unease and anxiety. This nervousness stems from various factors.
Here are four:
- Lack of experience: Kids are still figuring out the whole speaking thing. They're learning how to express themselves and find their voice. So when you throw them onto a stage or in front of a classroom full of people, it can feel like a major spotlight on all their insecurities. The fear often stems from the unknown and the fear of the unfamiliar.
- Self-consciousness: Children are often hyper-aware of how others perceive them. They worry about being judged or laughed at. And public speaking is basically an invitation for people to focus their attention on you and listen to every word you say.
- The fear of rejection: The need to belong is a fundamental human motivation. So the idea of standing up in front of a group and potentially facing rejection or ridicule can be downright terrifying for kids. They worry about being laughed at or criticized, and that fear can make public speaking feel like a social minefield.
- Negative past experiences: A negative experience, such as forgetting lines during a school play or receiving harsh feedback, can have a lasting impact on a child's confidence. The child may develop a belief that public speaking is something to be avoided at all costs to prevent future embarrassment or criticism.
💡 The fear of English as a contributing factor to public speaking fear in children cannot be overlooked. It often stems from concerns about making mistakes, feeling self-conscious about pronunciation or grammar, or the fear of being judged by peers or teachers. This fear can lead to heightened anxiety during English-speaking situations, making public speaking even more daunting for children.
B. Typical symptoms and reactions
When kids have a fear of public speaking, they can show a range of symptoms and reactions. It's essential to recognize these signs so that we can help them navigate through their fear.
Here are some common things to look out for:
- Physical signs: It’s common for children to experience physical symptoms like a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, trembling, dry mouth, or feeling lightheaded. Their bodies may go into overdrive, signaling their anxiety.
- Avoidance behaviors: Children may go to great lengths to dodge situations that involve speaking in front of others. They may conveniently fall ill on presentation days or beg their teachers to exempt them from speaking engagements. Anything to escape the spotlight.
- Emotional distress: Fear and anxiety can take an emotional toll on children. They may feel very nervous or restless before and during a public speaking event. Sometimes these emotions can escalate to panic or even tears. They might also have trouble sleeping.
- Negative self-talk: Kids might doubt themselves and imagine things going terribly wrong. They may believe they will embarrass themselves or be made fun of by others. These negative thoughts can make their fear even stronger and hinder their self-confidence.
- Blending into the Background: When avoidance isn't an option, some kids might resort to camouflage. They'll shrink into the background, hoping to become invisible. They may mumble their words, avoid eye contact, and slouch their shoulders to avoid drawing attention. It's as if they're trying to blend into the wallpaper and disappear.
It's crucial to understand that these reactions are not signs of weakness or incompetence.
The pressure to perform well and the fear of being judged can overwhelm anyone, regardless of age.
💡 Shyness vs. Anxiety: Decoding Children's Fear of Public Speaking
When it comes to a child's fear of public speaking, it's important to differentiate between shyness and anxiety.
Shyness is a personality trait that may cause some discomfort but doesn't typically interfere significantly. Anxiety, however, can be more overwhelming and hinder a child's overall well-being.
Shyness is like being hesitant or reserved in social situations, while anxiety is a deeper fear that can take over a child's mind and body.
Shy kids may feel uncomfortable or unsure around others, preferring smaller, familiar settings. They might be quiet or introverted, but it doesn't necessarily mean they fear public speaking. It's more of a personal preference.
Anxious kids, on the other hand, experience a rush of uncomfortable sensations when faced with public speaking. Their heart races, their hands get sweaty, and their stomach churns. They have a strong desire to avoid such situations, and if they can't escape, they may try to hide in plain sight, mumbling words and avoiding eye contact.
If you suspect anxiety is the root of your child's fear, seek support from teachers, counselors, or mental health professionals.
Understanding the difference allows us to create a supportive environment for our children to develop their public speaking skills at their own pace.
You may want to check out our short video for tips to speak without anxiety:
Why Is Public Speaking An Important Skill For Kids?
💡 7 reasons why your kids need to learn public speaking:
- Confidence booster
- Effective communication
- Critical Thinking
- Persuasive abilities
- Leadership potential
- Academic success
- Career advantages
The capability to communicate competently is essential for personal contentment, academic achievement, and professional career success (Morreale & Pearson, 2008).
It might not seem like a big deal, but let me tell you why it matters.
1. Confidence booster: When children face their fear of public speaking and step up to the podium, it boosts their self-confidence. They learn to believe in themselves and their abilities to communicate effectively, which can have a positive impact on various aspects of their lives.
2. Effective communication: Public speaking helps kids become better communicators overall. They learn to articulate their thoughts clearly, use appropriate body language, and engage their audience. These skills come in handy not only in school presentations but also in everyday conversations, debates, and future job interviews.
3. Critical Thinking: Public speaking encourages children to think critically. They need to analyze information, structure their arguments, and present their ideas in a logical manner. This process fosters their ability to think critically, evaluate different perspectives, and make informed decisions.
4. Persuasive abilities: Public speaking equips kids with the power to persuade others. They learn how to present their ideas in a convincing and compelling manner. This skill comes in handy when they need to share opinions, negotiate, or even participate in debates.
5. Leadership potential: Studies show a person cannot become an effective leader unless he is an excellent communicator. Public speaking nurtures leadership qualities in kids. When they can confidently address a group, inspire others, or take charge of a situation, it sets them on a path to becoming effective leaders. These skills can be valuable in school projects, extracurricular activities, and future career opportunities.
6. Academic success: Strong public speaking skills can contribute to academic success. Kids who can express themselves clearly and confidently are more likely to actively participate in class discussions, deliver impactful presentations, and excel in various subjects.
7. Career advantages: Finally, public speaking sets children up for success in their future careers. In many professions, the ability to speak confidently and persuade others is crucial. By developing public speaking skills early on, children gain a competitive edge and open doors to a wide range of opportunities.
Public speaking might feel intimidating at first, but it offers numerous benefits for kids.
So, let's encourage children to embrace public speaking as a powerful tool for personal and professional growth.
Now, let’s look at 7 tips to help your child how to speak in public without fear.
7 Tips To Help Your Child with the Fear of Public Speaking
💡 7 Tips to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking:
- Acknowledge the Fear
- Believe in Your Story
- Practice in Front of a Mirror
- Learn the Science of Postures
- Make it a Daily Exercise.
- Do Positive Self-Talk
- Start with a Small Presentation
1. Acknowledge the Fear
The first step to helping your child overcome the fear of public speaking is to acknowledge it. By acknowledging the fear, you can set the stage for conquering it.
A research study by a team of psychologists says that verbally acknowledging fear helpsdissipate it.
Children often worry about embarrassing themselves or being laughed at by others. If you jump straight into giving tips and advice without acknowledging their fear, it can make the child feel uncertain and resistant to your guidance.
Start by having an open and honest conversation with your child about their fear of public speaking. It's important to let them know that it's normal to feel scared. It is not something to be ashamed of but rather an opportunity for growth.
Ask them what specifically scares them about public speaking. Is it the fear of being judged? Or perhaps the worry of forgetting what to say?
Listen attentively and empathetically, and create a safe and supportive environment for them to open up and share their thoughts. By pinpointing the specific fears, you can address them directly and work towards overcoming them together.
Let them know that you believe in their ability to overcome this fear and that you're there to support them every step of the way.
Overcoming fear takes time, and every child progresses at their own pace. Remember to be patient and understanding.
2. Believe in Your Story
When it comes to public speaking, one of the biggest obstacles is doubting whether your words are worth sharing. But here's the thing: you've got a story to tell, and it's unique to you.
When children are faced with the task of giving a public speech, their first instinct might be to search for inspirational speeches on YouTube and try to imitate them. But what truly resonates with an audience is a personal story.
When your child is preparing to speak in front of others, whether it's in school or any other setting, it's important for them to believe in what they have to say. Believing in their story means having confidence in the message they want to share with others.
Here's why believing in your message matters:
- it shows in their words and how they present themselves.
- the conviction and passion captivate the audience and make them more engaged.
- people are naturally drawn to those who believe in what they're saying.
Let's say your child is tasked with giving a presentation about their favorite book to their classmates.
You can sit down with your child and discuss why they love the book so much. Ask them to think about how the story has impacted them personally or what lessons they've learned from it. As they reflect on these aspects, they start to develop a deeper connection with the story.
Once they have a clear understanding of why the book is important to them, encourage them to write down key points they want to share with their classmates.
This process instills a sense of self-assurance within your child and allows them to connect with the audience on a deeper level. They wouldn’t require to memorize every word or engage in rote learning. Instead, through their speech, they would share genuine enthusiasm and a personal connection with the book.
The presentation becomes not just an assignment but a meaningful exchange of ideas.
By encouraging your child to believe in their story, you empower them to overcome their fear of public speaking and share their unique perspectives with others.
3. Practice in Front of a Mirror
The mirror is like a trusted companion that can help your child overcome their fear of public speaking. When kids feel nervous and unprepared during a speech, the audience can sense it too. That's why practice is essential.
Public speaking anxiety often stems from a fear of judgment or looking foolish in front of others. By practicing in front of a mirror, your child can confront those fears head-on.
A research study concludes that practicing in front of a mirror positively impacts speech performance.
The mirror serves as a non-judgmental audience that provides instant feedback.
As your child stands in front of the mirror, they can observe their body language, facial expressions, and overall presentation. They can see how they appear and experiment with different tones of voice and gestures to see what works best for them. Maybe they notice that they're slouching or fidgeting too much.
Practicing in front of a mirror allows your child to become more familiar with their own speaking style. It may feel a bit strange at first, but remind them that it's a valuable step towards conquering their fear of public speaking.
With practice and perseverance, your child will gain the confidence they need to remove the stage fear while speaking.
4. The Science of Postures
Teaching your child the importance of body language and how it influences their presentation can make a significant difference in their public speaking skills.
When kids feel fearful and nervous while giving a speech, their body language often reflects this through closed postures. Closed postures, such as crossing their arms or keeping their arms too close to their body, create barriers between them and the audience.
Standing tall with their heads up and shoulders back makes them feel more confident and powerful. On the other hand, when they slouch or hunch over, it can make them feel weak and anxious.
Studies have found that certain postures can actually change the way you feel by influencing your hormone levels.
Adopting a confident posture, like standing up straight with your chest out and your arms open, can increase your testosterone levels (a hormone associated with confidence and assertiveness) and decrease your cortisol levels (a stress hormone).
Encourage your child to open up their body language. Opening up their body language helps relax them and instills a sense of trust in the audience. When your child appears open and confident, the audience will perceive them as more credible and trustworthy.
Remember, this knowledge of posture isn't limited to public speaking alone. Your child can use it in various aspects of their life. Whenever they want to feel more confident, whether it's before a test, a sports competition, or even when meeting new people, remind them to strike a power pose and let their body work its magic.
5. Make it a Daily Exercise
To prevent astronauts from panicking during the early space missions, NASA took a clever approach. They made the astronauts go through each step of the process again and again until it became boring. This repetition created a strong sense of confidence that helped the astronauts remain calm and composed in the face of challenges in space.
— “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph”: Ryan Holiday
When you first start working out, it can be challenging and uncomfortable. But as you continue to exercise regularly, your body adapts and becomes stronger.
The same principle applies to public speaking. By making it a daily exercise, you're helping your child build up their speaking muscles.
Children often don't fear activities they are accustomed to doing every day. To apply this principle, start small and gradually increase the difficulty.
Encourage kids to engage in activities such as debates, quizzes, or simply speaking to a shopkeeper. Encourage your child to speak up at home, perhaps during family discussions or when sharing their thoughts on a topic. This creates a safe and supportive environment for them to practice their speaking skills without the pressure of a formal presentation.
As your child becomes more comfortable, you can gradually introduce more formal speaking situations, such as school presentations or community events.
By consistently exposing them to public speaking, they'll start to develop a sense of familiarity and confidence in expressing themselves.
Now, keep in mind that progress may not happen overnight. Your child may still feel nervous or stumble over their words initially, and that's perfectly normal. Encourage them to embrace those moments of discomfort as opportunities for growth.
Remember, it's about building those speaking muscles and helping your child grow into a confident communicator.
6. Do Positive Self-Talk
💡 Self-affirmation activates reward centers in the brain, as revealed by a study. Simply saying "I will earn that promotion," lights up these centers, similar to pleasurable experiences. It enhances neural pathways and fosters happiness and positivity.
Our thoughts have a huge impact on how we feel and behave. If your child constantly tells themselves, "I'm going to mess up," or "Everyone will laugh at me," it's only going to intensify their fear.
Negative self-talk feeds into the anxiety and makes it harder for them to overcome it.
As a parent, it's important to recognize the significance of instilling positive self-talk in your child's life. Sometimes, we may unintentionally overlook this aspect.
However, by actively promoting self-assurance through self-talk, you can empower them to boost their confidence and calm their nerves.
Encourage your child to develop positive self-talk patterns. Teach them to challenge and replace negative thoughts with more empowering ones.
There's this dialogue from Amir Khan's movie "3 Idiots" that perfectly captures the essence of positive self-talk. "All is well."
In the movie, the character played by Amir Khan uses this phrase as a way to stay calm and focused during challenging situations. It's a simple yet powerful reminder that everything will be alright, no matter how tough things may seem.
Similarly, you can teach your child to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations, such as:
- "I am well-prepared about my topic."
- "They will like my speech."
- "I will remember everything."
It's essential to practice positive self-talk consistently. Make it a habit for your child to engage in positive affirmations before and during public speaking engagements. Help them build a strong belief in themselves and their abilities.
Remember, change takes time and patience. Positive self-talk won't magically eliminate their fear overnight, but it can gradually shift their mindset and reduce anxiety.
Just like the "All is well" mantra from "3 Idiots," I want to encourage you and your child to come up with your own personalized mantras. These mantras can be powerful tools for positive self-talk and overcoming fear.
7. Start with a Small Presentation
The key to overcoming the fear of public speaking is to start small and gradually build up their skills and confidence.
When I say "small presentation," I mean something low-pressure and comfortable for your child. It could be as simple as speaking in front of the family at dinner or presenting a short show-and-tell at school. The idea is to create a safe and supportive environment where they can dip their toes into public speaking without feeling overwhelmed.
Starting with a small presentation gives your child a chance to experience success and gain some positive feedback. This will boost their confidence and show them that public speaking doesn't have to be the terrifying monster they've built it up to be.
Encourage your child to prepare for the presentation, even if it's just a few minutes long. Help them organize their thoughts, practice their delivery, and provide constructive feedback. Let them know that making mistakes is okay and that learning from them is part of the process.
As they become more comfortable with these small presentations, the level of challenge gradually increases. Maybe they can speak in front of a larger group of friends or join a club or organization where they can practice their public speaking skills. The goal is to expose them to different situations and gradually expand their comfort zone.
By starting with small presentations and gradually building up, you're helping your child overcome their fear in a manageable way.
Public speaking is a super useful skill that goes beyond just talking in front of people. It's a tool that gives your child the power to express themselves, share their ideas, and connect with others in a meaningful way.
Whether speaking up in class, joining group discussions, or giving a speech at an event, communicating well is a game-changer in all areas of life.
When you support your child in overcoming their fear of public speaking early on, you're setting them up for success in the long run.
Getting your child to conquer their fear of public speaking in childhood comes with a bunch of advantages. By facing their fears and realizing they can overcome challenges, they start believing in themselves and their abilities, which will serve them well in all sorts of situations as they grow up.
Conquering the fear of public speaking in childhood also helps kids develop important social skills. It improves their ability to connect with others, show empathy, and work well in groups.
These people skills are crucial for building meaningful relationships, succeeding in teamwork, and becoming effective leaders down the road.
So, embrace the importance of helping your child conquer their fear of public speaking early on. It's a versatile skill that will benefit them for life, opening doors to personal growth, academic success, and professional achievements.
However, it's important to be well-versed in public speaking techniques before helping your child with them. If you find yourself struggling with communication skills and public speaking, don't worry! You can try out BBR English.
We offer live 1:1 sessions on public speaking with an expert.
In these interactive sessions, you’ll discover techniques to improve your delivery, body language, vocal variety, structure, and much more. With feedback from corporate experts, you’ll master your public speaking skills in no time.
Book a counseling session now and start becoming a better presenter today.
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