What are we doing do our children?

It is a sad day when I read the news in the morning and a headline story is “Stress Driving Primary Kids to Self Harm” – courtesy of Sky News.

A survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers found that half of school staff believe pupils under their tutelage have self-harmed due to stress.

89% of staff claim that testing contributes to stressed children, however, peer pressure and popularity on social media are also said to be among the main strains to children.

The fact that there is even a need to highlight this issue is heartbreaking. Innocent childhood seems to be an ever diminishing time in our children’s lives. Very few children seem to have the ‘carefree’ days that they need to to develop their sense of awareness, self-esteem and self-confidence that will enable them to deal with the stresses that come in later life – the teenage years and beyond.

Children used to be blissfully unaware of the blights of ‘growing up’ and what lie ahead in adulthood yet the leap in technology and evolvement of lifestyles and media provide children with unregulated access to everything that society has to offer, good and bad.

Even children under the age of 1 year have the capacity to understand much more of the language they hear than they can vocalise and some of the imagery they see can not be understood (think about news programmes and what may be broadcast for example). So imagine as these children grow through to primary school just what they are exposed to on a daily basis when the radio is on in the car or the TV is left on during the day, or even your conversations with friends and family. There is no ‘watershed’ any more!

We cannot change the progression of technology but we can change our children’s access to it. Children need the opportunity to have an innocent childhood to learn where their boundaries are (this is a vital lesson being missed by parents because of lack of support and ‘guilt parenting’) and where they learn compassion, self-control and the art of winning and losing. We are taking away vital skills and life lessons from our children at the most beneficial age and we wonder why they are not able to deal with the pressure of exams etc in later life. Children do need to learn patience, sharing, turn taking, winning and losing as there is an art to it all that stands us in good stead for life. This SHOULD happen before they go to school but it is an almost extinct developmental achievement due to more meddling from Government that says “taking part is important not who wins”. Unfortunately, life is not about taking part, and so when children are faced with situations where they HAVE to achieve, succeed or win, they do not have the tools to deal with the stress and pressure that comes with it.

Mental health issues, of which self-harm is included, is growing at an alarming rate and sadly becoming more common in the under 5’s. If we do not act soon and make changes in our parenting advice we will see a devastated generation unable to cope with most of life’s normal twists and turns.