Why are our kids feeling so stressed?
Kids are healthier, wealthier and have it better than ever before. However they are also more exposed at a global scale to global disasters.
These notes were taken from the ABC programme Four Corners which aired on Monday night the 16th of November 2015. In the programme they interviewed groups of children from 12 – 19 about the type of things that they are facing and how they are coping. This is what the kids had to say.
Children today are more stressed than ever before: 1 in 4 children worry about the future. They worry about things like ISIS, refugees, the financial crisis and war.
Sam, Cameron, Zac and Ben are 12 & 13 years old and go to a local anglican school – they play soccer together. These are their top three main concerns.
1: doing well in school
2 : getting a job
3: provide one day for a family
2: money to support children one day
3: staying close to family
A generation ago kids this age were shielded from the wider world, not any more.
Kids worries have exploded.
They mention being concerned about the refugee crisis, world poverty, bombings, there is a very clear sense that they are in a shocking world full of floods of refugees, climate change, and issues that they are too young to deal with.
We are now seeing children as young as 7 having counselling for anxiety and depression. A major source of conflict for children is parents arguing and splitting up.
Olivia is 12, her parents are separated, and she has just changed schools. She was bullied and teased because she wore glasses. Girls would take her money, or threaten her and bite themselves and then threaten to tell the teacher that she had bitten them.
1 – 4 children suffer from bullying.
Bullying has always been around but bullying has a new dimension now of cyber bullying. Even in years 3 and 4 shocking things are being posted on line that cause devastation to young lives.
“Teachers are always pressuring children to do well and to succeed. It’s a lot of pressure to succeed”.
Away from school peer pressure has never been more intense. The pressure to look trendy and in fashion.
“Social media means that everyone sees every single aspect of your life on line. Huge pressure to have designer brands at 11 and 12”. It’s creating a huge anxiety and they spend a lot of energy and time into managing these things. “I worry all the time about what I am going to wear. Even just to walk the dog in case I see someone that I know”.
“Social media puts pressure on you to have a perfect life so that it looks like there is nothing wrong in your life. You don’t want anyone to know if something is going wrong”.
Dylan is 14 and is not allowed to play Call of Duty video game because his mother is against the violence.
30% of school age boys play 3 hours of gaming on a school day.
Leaving them sleep deprived and anxious and not doing well at school. They have no time for homework.
Gaming in itself is not a problem, it can teach you problem solving skills and connects you with community and friends.
Boys 13 and 14
“Boys are as worried about body image as girls. Girls think of boys as sex objects, they want them because of their bodies. Muscles are a big thing. Fitness and muscles. It takes a lot of work to keep a girlfriend, it adds to your social status. It helps you to fit in. I want to fit in and be a part of the social group. Fitting in makes your life more enjoyable”.
Gabrielle, Claudia and Teresa 16
They all go to dancing class together:
Training takes 10 – 15 hours a week. “Juggling this and school can be difficult. It’s a release from school and home – school is always stressful. We are like a big family and look after each other. Dancing releases the pressure”.
Outside the studio they have mountains of homework and looming exams.
“I always compare myself to others and think, why cant I be like them?”
“Sometimes I feel that I don’t look great, that my body is the wrong shape and certain features aren’t right”.
“Girls are also pressured by boys about sex because the boys have been into pornography. It’s horrible”.
1 in 5 16 – 17 year old girls suffer from depression
“Our parents divorced and my grades plummeted, I put on weight, I became depressed, I was really struggling”.
“There is a lot of pressure to be in the top classes and to do very well. There is a really smart kid in class that I can never beat. It makes me really distressed”.
“I’m not in the smartest class and I don’t understand what is being said so I get very scared and constantly worry”.
“I constantly worry about my weight because I have such good looking friends and I am overweight. I need to lose weight so that I can fit in. I feel crap about myself. Everyone is sharing photos on face book and I think that no one would want to look at me and I could grow old and be lonely”.
Tarquin is 15, when he was little he was traumatised by dysfunction in his family home. He never felt safe at home. He blamed himself for the family breakdown.
“I was nervous and depressed thinking that I had wrecked everything. I would spend all my time in the skate park to get away from home”. His girlfriend has been his rock. “She has really helped me feel like I belong”.
“Self harm is so common in my friendship group. There are websites which tell you how to self harm like: The Top ten ways to self harm”.
Two years ago Alorah who is 15 was so appalled by what was going on she made a video about it. She was only 13.
“Social media makes you feel like you should look a certain way and girls are not happy with the comparisons so they hurt themselves”.
135’000’00 young australians hurt themselves in the last year.
Two 18 year old girls:
“I felt completely imperfect compared to everyone else. At 14 I got an eating disorder. I instantly felt better about myself. Social media fantasises anorexia and give you steps on how to do it and I followed it like a bible”.
“I self harmed for about 3 years”.
Self harm is on the rise. It is so common that kids don’t see it as dysfunctional. It becomes addictive.
“Self harming helped me cope when I was sad or not coping. It gave an adrenaline high”.
If you suffer depression, anxiety and are self harming you are at a greater risk of suicide.
Both of these girls attempted suicide. They are only now coming to terms with their place in the world. There is a lot of pressure put on our generation that somehow we need to fix the world. It makes you feel very very lonely and helpless
Most kids survive their anxieties but it can be a daunting journey.
- We need to listen more closely to our kids.
- We need to be more interested in our kids and more aware of their day and what they are going through.
- “Parents should always be there when you need them. Wrap them up in love”.
Four Corners ABC
If you are struggling right now with stress and pressure. You are not alone. You can get help. If you need to talk to someone please call:
Life Line 131114
Headspace 1800 650 890
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