- Skills Spotlight
How to Help a Child Overcome Fear of Public Speaking
What can parents do to help their child overcome a fear of public speaking? Discover four things you can do to build your child’s confidence as a communicator!
Sooner or later, every child will have to give a speech. Unfortunately, many of them will meet the experience with anxiety, instead of seeing it as a remarkable opportunity to share their ideas.
Children who learn how to engage an audience often find that they have an edge as they enter adulthood. Strong public speaking skills reflect confidence, resourcefulness, grit, and creativity.
In this article, we will examine some of the reasons why children fear public speaking, and how parents can help their child overcome this fear of public speaking by developing communication skills that will serve them throughout life.
How to Help Your Child Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking
Today’s children are finding their “voice” earlier than ever before. Most preteens, for instance, know how to navigate various social media outlets, which requires visual and writing skills.
Despite their growing interest in clear and creative communication, children often dread public speaking — a skill they will need throughout life, at home, work, and in the community.
According to Psychology Today, 25% of adults fear public speaking, so it is not surprising that children feel anxious about speaking in public, too. Sometimes, they experience “anxiety sensitivity” or “fear of fear.” Other times, they overestimate what is at stake, or they feel inadequate because they lack experience or skills.
Being able to connect to an audience can mean the difference between a job promotion, motivating people to act, and explaining why your values matter. Now is the perfect time to start working with your child because young people between the ages of 10 and 17 have built-in opportunities to develop their public speaking skills at home and at school.
Here are four practical ways that you can help your child develop solid public speaking skills:
1. Look for Natural Opportunities to Engage an Audience.
Try to incorporate public speaking in normal activities.
At home, encourage your child to explain what she learned in science class or what she is reading for English.
Ask “how” and “why” questions. Give your daughter a chance to explain how a historical event shaped the culture or why a book was so captivating.
If your daughter tends to respond with brief answers, encourage her to elaborate. Ask for details that create “word pictures”.
2. Be an Active, Respectful Listener.
It is tempting to “fill in the gaps” when your child is learning to communicate. Try to avoid the urge to speak for your child. She will find her “voice” through trial and error.
Be an active listener and train yourself to ask open-ended questions that prompt your child to explain.
Ask for examples.
Avoid interrupting your child’s presentation to ask for clarification. Wait politely; then, discuss the presentation holistically.
3. Help Your Child Fine Tune Her Delivery.
Try not to break your child’s concentration. Public speaking requires focus and practice—the best speakers rehearse and tweak their presentations many times.
Instead, have a piece of paper handy and note your questions. Be specific. Where did you lose your child’s train of thought? How distracting were the empty “fillers”?
If your child is shy or soft-spoken, use hand signals to remind the child to speak up. Try to sit on the other side of the room so that your child must project.
If possible, invite a couple of people to join you so that your child can work on eye contact; she should try to engage every person in the room.
4. End With a Word of Encouragement.
Your child will probably improve every time she speaks in front of people. Acknowledge the child’s efforts and let her know that you are rooting for her.
Tell your child specifically what you liked about the presentation. Comment on enthusiasm and clarity. Although you will want to address areas of improvement, don’t let those words be the last ones that your child hears.
Remember, the goal is progress, not perfection.
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