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Anxiety and stress of the modern child.

Is this a new phenomenon or better recognized as if often thrown out as an excuse for Autism, ADHD, poor sleep etc?

Were our parents dimmer, less observant or less informed, or are we looking for a stricter line on “perfection” in our children? My opinion is a good rusty nail, splintering fence-sitting, probably a bit of all of the above. The pressure today on children is hectic. It’s certainly different and advertised to all and sundry.

I have an elder son who without a doubt is a little more sensitive to the world. That is not to say that he is weak; on the contrary, he puts on a brave face, shipped himself off to boarding school and achieves well beyond his father’s achievements in almost all spheres. But let me tell you that the pressure applied to him and his A-team rugby friends through FaceBook and WhatsApp groups is bizarre. When they lose depression sets in amongst the team, coaches and parents. Counselling is needed, life seems to end and criticism is handed out from all directions, yet when they win they are lauded as heroes. This is Grade 10 rugby and WhatsApp groups are filled with joy, parental drunkenness and literally 100s of photographs of the game and the thereafter.

I am a competitive person by nature and will admit to my loud vocals and disbelief that there is a decent referee in the world, but surely school sport should be just that… sport. It’s not a war, not even a battle. No one is a hero; just a good player who had a good day. Well done.

This behaviour and actions clearly indicate how our children live in the classroom, on the sports field and in their lives. There is school and coach pressure way beyond anything I experienced at a boys-only boarding school in Zimbabwe. These are boys, not demi-gods and they need to learn competition as a healthy pass time; not make or break. In the classroom the pressure to perform and attain 1 of 400 places in medicine with 5000 applicants is also crazy, but what do you do? More people, certainly better equality, but just pressure to perform.

All of this is happening under a glaring spotlight on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat with instant access to pornography, old and new. Exam papers can be found online along with people commenting, criticizing and ridiculing, not face-to-face but often anonymously via whatever social media platform suits their ugly needs.

I am stressed by life; by bills; politics; corruption; crime and the ravages of age and I grew up with black and white TV from 5 pm until 10 pm, with no smartphone that constantly informs me of the world’s ills 24/7.

How do kids escape it? Well, first they need to be kids. Not mini-adults and certainly not parents. They need time outside; they need good food and mountain views, or the sea if easier. They need real friends, not online jerks. They need to play sport, not go to war. They need fewer pills and more chills. And for sure they need less screen time and more real downtime. We really need to lead by example.

It’s tough but it has to happen before we all implode.