Drilling and rehearsing speech points are necessary methods to prepare for a presentation, no doubt. But what to do when your child (or you!) experiences nervous mind cramps after hours and hours of drilling? Here are some tips to address nerve issues at their core.
Take the Time
When talking to your child about her presentation, let her know that she doesn’t have to immediately fill the silence. Taking a big breath and looking around the room once or twice will give her the time she needs to remember all those points she memorized at home. As she drills at home, encourage her to speak slowly and use hand gestures and body movement while she speaks. If her body is moving, she will become loose and relaxed much more easily and will have a much better chance of remembering what she needs to say.
See the People
Ask your child to sit down and close her eyes. In a calm voice, ask her to describe the classroom or the stage where she will be standing. Give her time to think about it and time to describe. Then, ask her to put people she dislikes and people she loves into the audience. If peer cruelty or bullying is an issue, establish the stage as a place of safety, away from all the drama. Developing surety onstage provides a physical barrier of protection from bullies while practicing the self-confidence needed to stand up to them in person. If peer separation is an issue, remind her that her friends will still be her friends, even if they are separated.
Breathe Through Your Belly Button Nose
This technique might sound silly, but it usually works for all ages. Ask your child to put her hands on her stomach, right above her belly button. Tell her to imagine she has a nose right under her fingers and to then breathe deeply through both of her noses. This helps the breath move out of the high, stressed-out chest breathing pattern and relaxes the tense stomach muscles that activate when she is frightened. Drawing a nose on the skin with pen also helps; when she begins to look stressed, just have her place her hand over her stomach.
Finger Focus Game
Relaxed breathing is such an integral part to a successful presentation. Stress can overtake even the most well prepared demonstration! Have your child practice this the morning of her speech or in her desk, just before she presents. Ask her to make two fists. On the in-breath, ask her to count and watch the number of seconds on the fingers of her left hand. Then, have her count the seconds of the out-breath on her right hand, until she is left with two open and relaxed hands. Repeat with each breath cycle.
Focusing on long breathing and relaxation will help your child to deal with much more than school presentations. It really sets up relaxed and mindful patterns to deal with stress in every situation and will serve her well throughout her life.