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April 30th, 2012

Performance Anxiety in Children

A girl gets a major part in a school play, but starts imagining she will forget her lines. A child will be giving a piano recital and is afraid of playing the wrong notes. A teen has a big baseball game coming up. He’s co-captain and worries about his performance on the field and when he’s up at bat. A terrific student is terrified about her upcoming finals, since this is a make or break year for college.

Performance anxiety doesn’t just affect professional actors, musicians, athletes or scholars. Persistent worry and fear about performance and competence affects children and teens too. The fears are not always based in reality: oftentimes the young person is well-prepared. The girl with Broadway dreams knows her lines for the play, and the young music student has been practicing Mozart for months. Nonetheless kids with performance anxiety can experience mounting dread as their event approaches. Even though it may not be initially based in reality, performance anxiety can negatively affect performance. The child freezes, the mind goes blank, and the youngster feels as if he blew his big chance.

Without question, practice, rehearsal and study can help minimize performance fears. Reassurance and encouragement from parents, teachers and coaches are also unquestionably helpful.

Learning a set of skills to manage anxiety can be a valuable tool and can protect young people from escalating performance anxiety. For example, relaxation methods, imagery techniques, accurate thinking and positive self-statements can soothe the young actor, musician, athlete and serious student. In addition, self-esteem boosting skills such as handling self-criticism and mistakes, as well as self-reward and focusing on one’s strengths provide a real boost to confidence, keeping performance anxiety at manageable levels.

Powerful anxiety management skills and confidence building strategies can be quickly learned and mastered in the Charge Up Your Confidence® and the Outsmart Your Worry Tool Kit for Kids®. The tools are effective, but not time-consuming, so learning them doesn’t take time away from play practice, music lessons, practice games or studying. Worry management and confidence skills are a great adjunct to managing performance anxiety, enabling children to focus on their passion, not their fear.

April 2nd, 2012

Teenagers Leaving Home for the First Time

If your teenager is leaving home for the first time to go on an extended class trip or summer program, you know it’s an important step in development. Independent experiences give young people an introduction to making their own decisions in a supervised setting and can have lasting benefits in preparation for college.

Some teens may wonder if they can handle being on their own because it’s a brand new experience. They may worry if it’s normal to have concerns about leaving home.

It’s understandable for middle school or even high school students to question their capabilities at handling independence. Ultimately, the decision to leave home for the first time should be up to the adolescent.

Some teens may not like to admit that the safety of home provides comfort and security. But it does for many teens, and being on one’s own even for brief periods of time can be threatening. If a teen has lingering doubts about leaving home, confidence-building skills plus anxiety management skills can prepare them. Self-esteem skills such as dealing with self-doubts, criticism, mistakes, embarrassment and imperfection can help adolescents feel stronger before taking that first big step. Similarly, they can acquire tools to minimize anxiety by practicing accurate thinking and calming behavior skills prior to leaving.

Teens today are masters at a wide range of skills, from test-taking skills, time management skills, complex math and writing skills, athletic skills and creative skills. Emotional life skills can be learned and perfected too. The High School/Middle School Edition of Charge Up Your Confidence® Tool Kit for Kids and Outsmart Your Worry Tool Kit for Kids® helps teens learn emotional skills to successfully handle being away from home.