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Performance Anxiety in Children

Children are far from being immune to the fear of failure or of being judged. Some even develop performance anxiety that can affect their quality of life. Here is some information and advice to gain a better understanding.

By Marie-Josée Roy


Who hasn’t felt nervous before an oral presentation, competition or exam? For some children, the fear of failure or of being judged is so strong, it can trigger serious stage fright. Some victims of performance anxiety are encouraged by well-intentioned parents who overdo it, while others experience self-inflicted pressure to succeed. Researchers agree that performance anxiety begins to take root during early childhood. Toddlers two to four years old rarely have anything to prove, but are still influenced by the expectations and desire for perfection of those around them. Their temperament and the way they react when faced with failure are also factors that have an impact on anxiety development.

Symptoms not to be overlooked

Unlike the nervousness that occasionally affects the average person, performance anxiety causes significant symptoms. Panic, anxiety attacks, self-denigration, insomnia, stomach aches, migraines, perfectionism, feelings of failure if objectives are not reached; the ways in which anxiety manifests itself are numerous and can turn an activity that was meant to be pleasant into a nightmare. Sometimes children are so afraid of not measuring up, that they pretend they’re not interested at all! Performance anxiety that affects the young can have long-term effects, underlining the importance of getting the situation under control as early as possible. Parents should be the biggest contributors when it comes to developing their child’s self-esteem.

What you can do

Rebuilding a child’s confidence doesn’t happen overnight, but there are lots of things you can do to bring about long-lasting change. Here are a few:

  • Help her with self-discovery so that she is aware of her strengths...and weaknesses. This way, she’ll realize that nobody is perfect.

  • Whether your child is interested in baseball, art or science, give her your unconditional encouragement. She needs to know that your love doesn't depend on what she can do.

  • Encourage her to explore the world of art to better channel his anxiety. The simple act of expressing herself freely will do her the greatest good!

  • There is nothing better than some relaxation to forget your worries! Establish a routine where you encourage your child to visualize images that calm her and make her happy.

  • If these steps aren't enough, don’t hesitate to reach out to a health specialist who can support you in your efforts and help your child enjoy being a kid again.

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