Observations from ‘What Worries Australian Children’ survey during Mental Health Week

Yes it is Mental Health week again and each year the response to this week appears to be getting better and stronger. Some fantastic articles and interviews can be found on www.abc.net.au/mentelas and are well worth a read.

An article that caught my attention this year is “What worries Australian Children”. A survey of 20 000 Australian children was conducted investigating what makes them happy and sad. Some interesting results were found. They found that kids worry a lot about the same things that grown ups worry about – being different, world problems, body, friends, family, health, and their future.

The interesting bit is that parents often underestimate how worried kids truly are about these things and often ignore or down play their child’s worries. If we choose to believe and think that children don’t possess similar worries to our own, then we are making our children feel unvalidated and unheard. This can subsequently make them feel sad. This can also lead to poor anxiety management skills as the child may try to push away their worry instead of learning to manage it appropriately.

It is also important to realise that if we don’t take our children’s worries seriously, then we are unable to provide them with the support that they may need to overcome this. With extensive research into anxiety, we now know that anxiety is a very manageable condition if taught effective anxiety management strategies. These strategies can be taught to children and are very effective at an early age. Children can then grow and develop with these strategies, learning to manage their anxiety at a very early age, helping to develop and grow into healthy and confident young adults. Left untreated, children can suffer with anxiety for most of their life, restricting them from life opportunities.

I believe that the take home message here is, please listen to your child when they come to you with their worries and believe what they are saying to you. You can support them by simply saying that you believe them and that it must be really hard to be worrying about those things. If you believe that these worries are having a serious impact on your child’s day-to-day functioning, please contact a professional who can help such as a psychologist.

France Slattery, Clinical Psychologist

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