LivingFear of public speaking in children and adolescents: how...

Fear of public speaking in children and adolescents: how to help them

Speaking in public can be very difficult for some children, and not all are equally extroverted; some can express themselves easily in front of others and others not so much.

And this not only has to do with the character of each one, and with the way of being, but also with their social skills , with previous experiences, etc.

But just because your child is afraid of public speaking doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with him.

In some situations, we can experience a certain degree of shyness and feel a little embarrassed when speaking in front of others, but what happens when this happens frequently or the anxiety is intense and paralyzing?

That can seriously affect the child’s daily functioning and well-being. Why this intense fear occurs and how to help these children speak in public ?

“The brave man is not the one who does not feel fear, but the one who conquers that fear.”

-Nelson Mandela-

Causes of fear of public speaking

There is no single reason to attribute the fear that some children and adolescents may experience in situations that require public speaking. However, we can highlight a trait that is usually very common in these cases: introversion .

There is nothing wrong with being an introvert, it is simply a personality trait that is part of who they are.

On the other hand, there is shyness, which according to authors such as Paul A. Pilkonis, Ph.D. in Psychology, is defined as ” the tendency to avoid social interactions and to fail to participate appropriately in social situations .”

This includes avoiding contexts where you have to speak in front of other people so that you don’t have to feel that discomfort. Feeling a little shy is normal, but when this affects the normal development of life, it is important to seek professional help.

Social phobia: the fear of exposure

On the other hand, when a child exposes himself to speaking in public, he is exposing himself to the scrutiny of others , to their gaze and judgment, and this can cause some anguish, for fear of being judged, of being ridiculed, etc. . (especially in adolescence).

This is characteristic of disorders such as social phobia (currently called social anxiety disorder), which is an anxiety disorder characterized by fear of exposure to certain social situations , along with the avoidance of them.

However, a child with a fear of public speaking does not have to have social phobia; perhaps their fear only occurs in this type of situation and not in others. Each case must be assessed individually.

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his greatest surprises, is to discover that he can do what he feared he couldn’t.”

Henry Ford

Keys to help our children and adolescents

If your children have a hard time speaking in public and just thinking about these situations makes them afraid or anxious, there are some recommendations that you can put into practice to help them overcome it or cope better:

learning through play

For children, the main source of learning is the game, because through it they begin to develop the necessary skills to be able to function in their daily lives. But it is not only a very important strategy for the little ones, because it also works with adolescents .

You just have to look for some activities that are to your liking and that involve having to speak in public, such as playing with puppets, performing a play…

Thus, a very good idea is to tell or read a story in front of others or to play a character in a play at home.

It is important that you keep in mind that this type of game should be fun, and never force them to participate , because by doing so we can produce the adverse effect of what we are looking for. Invite them to participate and encourage them to do so, based on their interests and motivations.

Do not underestimate the power of love and strengthen self-esteem

As parents, it is important that we express unconditional love and support to our children. This is one of the fundamental pillars for building your self-esteem and your self-concept.

Never assume that your child knows you support them; it is necessary to tell him and remind him that you are very proud of who he is.

Don’t forget to tell him that you trust him and that you know he can achieve anything he sets out to do, and that it doesn’t matter if he has trouble speaking in public now, that will only be a goal he can accomplish with perseverance.

Trust him and pass it on

Convey all your confidence when you go to see him in situations where he has to speak in public.

Look at him with confidence and trust and be a point of reference that tells him that he is doing very well, and if he makes a mistake, let him know that nothing is wrong, to move on.

let him talk

On many occasions, as parents or caregivers, we make the mistake of responding for children in situations that require them to talk.

Sometimes we do it when we see that they are afraid or embarrassed, and at other times we simply go ahead and answer for them.

Without realizing it, we can fall into a pattern where we don’t let children have the need to speak and express themselves.

This, far from being helpful, what it promotes is an increase in fear and a feeling of insecurity when having to face situations in which they are required to speak in front of others.

“Thinking will not overcome fear, but action.”

-W. Clement Stone-

Fear of public speaking: other recommendations

What else can help children cope with the fear of public speaking?

  • Expose yourself to this type of situation progressively (starting with an “easy” situation).
  • Work on the irrational and limiting beliefs that hide behind this fear (especially in relation to oneself).
  • Train social skills .
  • Breathing exercises are of great help in managing anxiety in situations where you have to speak in public.
  • Creative writing is an amazing tool to help organize ideas.
  • Mastering the topic you need to talk about will give you greater security and confidence.
  • Reading helps increase vocabulary, and gives them greater security. Encourage them to start with an individual reading, and then have them read in front of you or other family members.

“When you do what you fear most, then you can do anything.”

-Stephen Richards-

Photos | Portada (freepik)

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