Belfast Telegraph

Childhood shouldn't be filled with anxiety

Editor's Viewpoint

It is disturbing to discover that the number of children - from all backgrounds - being treated for anxiety is soaring in Northern Ireland.

The latest figures reveal that at least 20 children are being referred to specialists each week in two separate health boards.

At one stage last year the South Eastern Trust recorded as many as 70 referrals a week. The national statistics display the same trends, with 10,000 young people across the UK being treated for anxiety in 2015-16.

There are many causes for this, including the peer pressure from an early age linked to examinations and assessments, and the fear of not doing well enough.

Added to this is the pressure from social media, including bullying, and the attitude of parents themselves who are under pressure in our increasingly competitive society.

An expert from Belfast's Beechcroft Child and Adolescent Inpatient Unit believes many problems are caused by people in the modern world depending on social media.

Because of this, a child who is bullied at school can continue to be bullied at home through social media, and there is little or no respite from anxiety.

Parents can play their part in alleviating some of the stress, but unfortunately, in many cases, they have become part of the problem.

For reasons best known to themselves, many parents are addicted to social media and spend too much time on their mobile phones or computers to take heed of the immediate needs of their children.

Young people need time and space to talk to their parents, and to interact with them in a way that was natural in previous generations.

This works both ways, and parents need the time and space to talk to their children and to listen to them, rather than taking up this precious time by constantly logging in to social media.

Fortunately, childhood anxiety can be treated if the problem is tackled early enough, and there are techniques to help children and adults to overcome the issue.

There are enough problems for everyone later on in a society where anxiety has become for too many people an unfortunate way of life.

Childhood is a precious and fleeting period, and adults must do all they can to make the best of this limited window of opportunity for young people to enjoy their early years, which should be some of the best in their lives.

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