We must be mindful of our kids' anxieties
One phrase that seems to be on very many people's lips in today's world is 'under pressure'. It is a feeling affecting adults and children alike. But while adults have the maturity to understand the nature of the pressures affecting them and how to cope, for children it is often a very different story.
As the Childline charity reports in this newspaper today, the number of young people contacting it with feelings of anxiety has reached record levels in Northern Ireland and resulted in an increase in counselling sessions.
There are the expected triggers which affect growing youngsters - relationships, upcoming examinations and peer pressure. But cyber bullying is a growing and insidious development that can have tragic results, as can be seen from even a cursory glance at recent media reports.
Social media has turned life for many young people into a goldfish bowl where their every move, anxiety, relationship, or home or school life, is often laid bare for all to see. There is a pressure to conform to the norm, but social media also gives the closet bullies free range to vent their bile.
The remedy for this pressure on young people might seem obvious: simply get off social media or cut back on the information posted. But for a young person wanting to interact with his or her peers that would seem a step too far.
Yet many young people realise the results of the pressures that come to bear on them. Saying they suffer from anxiety, or even require counselling, does not do full justice to what they are experiencing. Many talk about having panic attacks, even as they make the phone call to seek help.
And for a young person, opening up to a parent or relation, never mind a stranger, about the traumas in their lives can be difficult. They are left with a feeling of helplessness, not quite sure where to turn. They are not helped by parents or relations who regard their problems as just a phase that will pass.
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The young people under pressure are fortunate that a charity like Childline exists and that its reputation is such that many feel secure enough to turn to it for help. Trust for young people is a very fragile thing.
Of course, most parents will try to help their children, but with their own busy lives in many instances they are often unaware of what is happening in their own home. Making time for our children must be the priority in today's very challenging world.