How can you help your child when they are dealing with anxiety, particularly performance anxiety?
Part of the learning experience for musicians is performing before an audience. We might sign our piano kid up for a piano recital, playing for grandparents, a piano audition or festival, a talent show at school or even playing for church. Anytime there is a performance opportunity, it stands to reason that your child will be a little anxious.
In fact, public speaking or performing is one of the top fears for most adults. You can read more about this in this article.
As parents, how do we know how far to push our children? Are we asking them to do more than they are capable of doing? How do we strike a balance between pushing them a little bit out of their comfort zone but not pushing them too far and causing harm?
Are you projecting your own fears?
We can bundle our own emotions and past experiences into this new opportunity for our child.
“Are you thinkin’ what I’m thinkin’?” – Zoe, my sweet neice.
More likely than not, our child is NOT thinking what we’re thinking when it comes to piano performance.
A good test to determine your child’s readiness to do well for an audience or a judge is to record them playing. Knowing that we are being recorded causes similar reactions in our brain and body that public performance does.
Saying, “Don’t be nervous”, can have the opposite effect and could actually cause your child to become more nervous than they were. Instead, tell your piano kid that you are proud of them. Remind them how hard they have already worked.
Fear of the Unknown
Your child may be concerned about an upcoming performance simply because they don’t know what to expect.
You can help them by visiting the venue where the event will take place. With permission, you might even be able to play the piano there. Pianos vary a great deal from one to the next. Some have keys that are easier to press than others. Playing that piano can alleviate some of your child’s concerns. If you cannot visit the venue, perhaps your piano teacher has a photo that you could look at to see what the room looks like.
Communicate your child’s concerns with your teacher. This will help them as they work with your child and help them prepare for the event. Let them be the coach while you are the cheerleader.
Sometimes the thing that your piano kid is worried about has nothing to do with what you would expect. They might be concerned about where they will sit or how they will know it’s their turn to play. Talking to your child can help you better understand what they’re thinking so you can help put their mind at ease.
Fear of Failure
Just preparing for the event is already a success. They have already raised their standards and their abilities. They had worked to polish the piece more than they normally would have. Congratulations!
While you’re waiting, offer quiet distractions such as drawing or reading. Give their brain something else to concentrate on besides what could go wrong with their performance.
Remember, too, that a judge at an event is only hearing what I call a “snapshot” of your child’s ability. Just as we might close our eyes or sneeze when a picture is taken of us, your piano kid might have a memory lapse or a glitch in their performance the day of the event.
The judge can only give an assessment based on what they hear that day. They don’t know the work and achievement your child has accomplished just to get to that moment. You do. You can help your child appreciate their success even if they don’t have their best performance before the judge.
Above all, we want your child to have a positive life experience.
Hey there and welcome!
Sign up to get Piano Parent Podcast updates delivered directly to your inbox. Special resources and content only for subscribers.