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Increase in Anxiety and Stress in Under 14s

Increase in Anxiety and Stress in Under 14s

Twelve per cent of all calls to Kidsline from those aged under 14 years relate to anxiety and stress, according to latest call figures to the nationwide 0800 kids helpline service.

Kidsline receives thousands of calls each year from children across a range of issues from relationship and friendship difficulties through to bullying and abuse. While bullying remains the leading reason why children call Kidsline, calls relating to anxiety and stress are on the increase making up 12 per cent of all calls.

Anxiety and stress are issues often identified and expected in most adults' lives; however young children can also be seriously affected by stress at a level which to them is similar to that of an adult, Lifelife Aotearoa Chief Executive Jo Denvir says.

Stress and anxiety can stem from problems such as bullying, family issues, schoolwork, and even everyday social situations causing a lack of focus at school, disturbed sleep, and changes in behaviour. "This can mean that kids may become aggressive, or perhaps extremely withdrawn, either of which can in turn increase the difficulties they are already having," Denvir says.

Children in this age-group are in a vulnerable stage of life, Denvir adds, where they are developing habits and forming behaviours they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. "What's important is not to judge whether a situation should cause a child stress or anxiety. We, as adults, need to help them handle their emotions."

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When a call is made to Kidsline, carefully selected, trained and supervised "Buddies" (year 12 and 13 students) talk through the presented issue and listen and help guide the child through their problem. "If children have the opportunity to ask for help and reach out for support, then that will set a blueprint for positive, social, and healthy adult behaviour in the future," Denvir says.

Many of the calls received from Kidsline around stress and anxiety come back to communication. "What we're hearing on a recurring basis from those calling Kidsline is that they feel adults think, and communicate, that being a kid should be easy and that kids' problems are small."

While it's completely normal for a child to feel angry, upset or stressed at times, Jo advises parents and caregivers to keep a careful eye out for increased levels of stress and on-going negative behaviour.

"Changes in behaviour are really crucial. It can be easy to write off sullenness as 'normal' young person behaviour, but when a child is being bullied it can affect their appetite, sleep patterns, schoolwork, moods, and can even result in serious acting-out or attention-seeking behaviours, including overreaction to seemingly minor issues."

Other tell-tale signs that can point to a child feeling stressed or anxious may include withdrawing from social activities such as sports, or they may no longer talk about their friends.

"A supportive friend or family member, or someone who they know is there for them and will listen to them, such as a teacher, can make a huge difference to that child later in life," Denvir says.

Children can call Kidsline free from anywhere in New Zealand or from any mobile phone to 0800 KIDSLINE (0800 543 754).

Visit Kidsline online at

About Kidsline

Kidsline is a long running service of Lifeline Aotearoa, a registered not-for-profit counselling organisation. Kidsline is best described as a free, confidential, brief-intervention, near-peer telephone counselling service for children up to 14 years of age. It has over 70 telephone counsellors (Buddies) managed by a supervision and training team and overseen by the Kidsline Manager. Kidsline is uniquely about kids being there for other kids - they are the only national child helpline in the world where every counsellor is a secondary school student. Kidsline receives no government funding.


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