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NSPCC is there to help children under stress

I refer to your timely editorial comment (Editor's Viewpoint, February 21) on the worryingly high levels of anxiety among children and young people in Northern Ireland. You rightly refer to burdens associated with schools and examinations and the pressure to "succeed" in today's highly competitive world.

Some parents are dismissive and claim the coming generation needs to toughen up. However, we know from the rising totals of calls to Childline, that the burden of expectation and demands placed on children can be severe.

Proliferation of social media use can, as you state, complicate an already difficult problem and lead to damaging anxiety. Last year, NSPCC data revealed a 35% rise, with 11,706 children and young people across the UK being counselled by Childline about anxiety in 2015/16 compared to 8,642 in 2014/15. The causes range from personal and family problems to concerns about world issues.

In the year to November 2015, the NSPCC's round-the-clock service handled 660 counselling sessions across the UK about international terrorism.

More than 10% of these counselling sessions (71) were provided by NSPCC counsellors in the two Childline bases in Northern Ireland.

However, the NSPCC can make a positive difference. Our helpline advises parents and adults, helping them to help children as they try to make sense of their complex and often stressful lives. It is vital that we do not brush aside young people's fears. Instead, we must listen to their worries and reassure them.

Childline - available on 0800 1111 - is always here to listen to a child. Our adult helpline - 0808 800 5000 - can offer adults advice on how to comfort and talk to children about difficult topics.

Childhood should not - and need not - be filled with anxiety.

NEIL ANDERSON

Head of NSPCC Northern Ireland

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