Our modern world really is a fast-changing place, quite different from even a couple of decades ago. Young people nowadays, have to deal with the ever-evolving structure of today’s families, the cyber revolution, increasing violence, readily available recreational drugs, and immense academic pressures, to name a few. All this on top of the usual developmental demands like, forging an identity and fitting in with the crowd.
Researchers attempted to discover what today’s 9 - 14 year-olds actually do worry about, and they identified 21 categories of worry. It was found that 60% of children had academic or school related worries (e.g., "What’s going to happen if I don’t get good grades?"), 40% - health and safety (e.g., "Being attacked on the way home from school"), 24% - social relations (e.g., "My friends - are they really my friends?") and 14% - family relations (e.g., "When am I going to see my dad next?"). It can be pretty stressful growing up these days.
There is little doubt that anxiety and worry are normal features of growing up, in fact, they serve an important function in enabling children to avoid harm and danger and can often prove quite motivational. Difficulties arise, however, when normal, healthy worry becomes unmanageable and develops into an anxiety disorder. Anxiety is termed an internalising disorder, and as such, the early symptoms can often prove difficult to identify. Also, internalising behaviours may not be viewed as problematic as these children are frequently quiet, well-behaved and easily managed.
Children and adolescents who are particularly anxious, may experience symptoms of unrealistic and excessive worry, continuous need for reassurance, over-concern about past or future events, marked self-consciousness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, obsessions or compulsions, panic attacks or phobia.
It has been suggested that between 15-20% of children may suffer from clinical anxiety. Anxiety disorders come in many forms, some of the more common ones include generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), overanxious disorder (OAD), social phobia (SP), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, agoraphobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research also implicates childhood anxiety disorder as a risk factor in the development of other forms of child mental health problems, such as mood disorders, including depression, and behavioural problems.
There is appreciable evidence to suggest that many adult psychological problems have their onset during childhood and adolescence, and this is particularly so with anxiety disorders. It is important then, that these disorders are recognised, and dealt at an early stage.
Researchers into children’s mental health, stress the importance of early intervention. Teachers are ideally placed to help identify particularly anxious children and by raising their concerns, help nip these problematic issues in the bud.
Kidsline’s mandate is to provide an effective early intervention service of telephone support, so please give our telephone number to any child (9-13 years old, approx.) who you think would benefit from talking things through with one of our buddies.
Kidsline website is soon to be launched - www.kidsline.org.nz Targeted at kids, the website will cover issues such as bullying and friendship, and it will also have valuable information for teachers.
The 2002 Kidsline poster competition runs again this term. This is the fifth year of the competition, and this year it is even bigger and better! It’s a great opportunity for teachers to discuss issues and concerns with children.
Paper Plus is again sponsoring the prize - $1000 worth of books of their choice for the school from Paper Plus. Schools send send their top five entries to Kidsline. All pupils whose posters are sent to Kidsline will receive certificates by email. We hope to display posters on the web before judging. We look forward to your support.