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Battling the Butterflies

Glinda the Good Witch was singing, "Come out! Come out!" but one 6-year-old Munchkin refused to budge. While her classmates giggled and swirled onstage, Cassidy McDilda froze.

"She had this look on her face like, 'I'm being tortured by Dorothy,'" says her mom, Diane, of Gainesville, FL.

Call it stage fright, opening-night jitters, or plain old butterflies in the tummy: Anxiety is normal, even for seasoned performers. To help your little dancer or young pianist handle his nervousness and actually enjoy his moment in the spotlight:

• Make sure he wants to perform. Some kids just like taking lessons  -- and there's no rule that says a child has to take part in a recital if he doesn't want to.

• Rehearse, but don't push. Practice doesn't always make perfect, but it does make some things habit. Prepare your child for the "real thing," but do it in a stress-free setting. How about a recital performed in front of an audience of teddy bears?

• Applaud. Leave the critiques to your child's teacher. Cheering that in-home rehearsal will help your child build confidence for the actual performance.

• Take him seriously. If your child says he's scared because he's afraid he'll mess up, don't just say, "But you won't!" Instead say, "I'd be worried about that if it were me, too! But you've practiced a lot, and I'll be proud of you no matter what."