My son has anxiety and in particular has extreme anxiety around Christmas concert time. His class participates in the schools Christmas concert every year and as the concert date comes closer his anxiety worsens and he did not participate while on stage (I think because he is overwhelmed). He does not like everybody watching him on stage and gets overwhelmed by all the people in the audience. I struggle with this one. I can see how anxious he gets and part of me thinks I should just let him sit and watch his class because he is so worried about it but on the other hand I think he should try to overcome his anxiety? I don’t want to become an enabler. Any thoughts on how to handle Christmas concert anxiety?
Being courageous doesn’t mean not feeling anxious and fearful. Courageous is feeling anxious and fearful but still getting on with what we need to do! In this case, being on stage for the concert. We build our courage by confronting the experiences that make us anxious and pushing through them. The experience shouldn’t be so frightening as to evoke a crippling panic attack.
Small ways to build up his courage might be asking him to put up his hand up in class and answer the teacher publicly. He could stand in front of the class and talk about what he did on the weekend. In fact, I believe that he built up his courage by being in the last few concerts these past years, although he didn’t participate – he was still on stage! If you allow him to sit in the audience, you are sending a vote of non-confidence that gives him an “out” and now he has less chance to build his courage.
Remind him that while you know this makes him anxious, he has done it before. Ask him to remember what he did last year that allowed him to be onstage and repeat that solution this year. Remind him that the audience is friendly parents just like you. In fact, maybe he can try to just see your face and not look at the other faces. Explain that everyone feels tummy jitters before going on stage or playing in a big sports championship. Those jitters and adrenaline help us perform better as we get “activated”. He just gets REALLY super charged. That doesn’t feel nice, but teach him it’s just a feeling, a feeling like being cold, hot, sad, happy. He can tolerate it. He has before. Show your faith in him. When we enable, we send a message “I don’t think you can manage this” so of course they don’t believe in themselves either.
Remember there are lots of therapy programs for kids suffering with anxiety. You can look into finding him some more longer term help too.
Hope this helps!