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Relationships the Key Concern for Kiwi Kids

Relationships the Key Concern for Kiwi Kids

Almost half of all calls to the What’s Up free-telephone counselling service last year were from kids worried about their relationships with others.

Relationship concerns made up 47 per cent of all calls to the service and specific calls about peer relationships made up over 21 per cent of all calls – an increase of 2.2 per cent over 2002.

The service also saw a 5 per cent increase over 2002 in the number of boys asking for help and advice. In 2003 boys made up 41 per cent of calls and girls 59 per cent. This compared to 2002 where only 36 per cent of calls were from boys.

What’s Up is a nationwide service provided by the Kids Help Foundation Trust. It is available on 0800 WHATSUP (0800 942 87 87) from noon to midnight every day of the year for New Zealand’s 813,000 young people. The average age of callers to the service is 13 years.

The service, which has been running since September 2001, has received over 500,000 calls since its inception. On average, 448 young people call What’s Up each day.

What’s Up Executive Director Grant Taylor says 18 per cent of young people who called the service last year about peer relationships called because they were concerned about “a friend’s situation” – another 17 per cent reported on-going problems in peer relationships including difficulty maintaining friendships.

Of those calling about family relationships 20 per cent said they were called because they were concerned about a family member. Another 28 per cent reported major family conflict or family breakdown such as separation and divorce.

Relationships with boyfriends and girlfriends were the main concern of teenagers 16 years and over with 36 per cent reporting significant relationship difficulties or relationship breakdown – 12 per cent said they wanted to establish a relationship.

Peers are incredibly important in fostering the development of social skills in young people says Grant Taylor. Peer rejection and friendlessness are very painful issues for kids and can have serious long-term consequences. Parents and other significant adults can help – but they need to choose strategies that meet the individual needs of the children involved.

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