5 Steps to Battle the Butterflies

“But, Mom, I’m nervous!” This is something you  may hear as your child prepares for a dance performance or music recital. Even children and teenagers who have performed on stage before can struggle with nervousness before a performance. After dancing on stage for more than fifty years, Mikhail Baryshinkov has said that he still gets nervous before every performance.

However, even though being nervous before a performance is completely normal, it can still feel overwhelming and paralyzing for children. As a parent, how can you help your child to calm their nerves before a performance? Here are a few steps to help them take control of their butterflies.

  1. Breathe
    Deep breathing can have a tremendous calming effect on a racing mind and tense body. It lowers your heart rate and blood pressure, and releases nitric oxide, which increases your senses, endurance and strength. When a feeling of calm returns, a child is better able to move past their nervous thoughts and focus on the stage and their steps. They can do this quietly on their own right before going on stage, which gives them a tool to calm any last minute jitters.

*Check out this helpful article on breathing techniques for children and teens from The Mayo Clinic.

2.  Visualize
Have your child close their eyes and visualize what their performance will be like. Talk with them about the stage, the audience, the music, the lights and other elements of the performance. Have them visualize where they will be standing on stage, and the other dancers that will be around them. This can help your child prepare for what it will be like to be on stage.

3. Shake it Off
Don’t ignore the wisdom of Taylor Swift when dealing with nervous energy. Stretching and shaking out muscles before a performance can help young performers get rid of some of the adrenaline building up in their system, which helps to lessen nerves and increase calm feelings and focus.

4. Have a History Lesson
If your child or teenager has performed before, talk with them about those performances. Were they nervous before they went on stage before that dance or piece of music? What did they do to work through their fears then? Remind them of their past successes to help them tackle their current fears. They may just need a reminder to help them reclaim their confidence.

5. Tackle the “What ifs?”
Talk with your child in the weeks leading up to the performance to identify any “what if” fears they may have. One of the biggest may be, “What if I make a mistake?” If left unchecked, this can grow into a big fear inside a child’s head. Instead, talk through what would happen if they did make a mistake, and what they would do to get back on track. If they know what they will do in the event that a mistake happens, then they will be less nervous about this “what if,” and more able to move on should they stumble on stage. Chances are, it’s an unfounded fear that they can put behind them, and instead move ahead with the excitement of performing.

As your child’s teachers, we’re here to help! Let us know if your child is struggling with stage fright. It’s likely that we’ve already discovered this, and we are working with your child to move past those fears. It can be difficult for parents to see their children in situations where they are nervous and fearful, but facing those fears brings them more confidence in their abilities and pride in their hard work. It’s one of the reasons we believe in the power of the arts in your child’ s life.

Don’t forget that our holiday performance of Clara’s Holiday Dream is coming up this Saturday, December 16th at 6:00 pm at JFK Middle School. Click here to purchase tickets.