Keeping all the balls in the air – By Linda McNeil

Keeping all the balls in the air

By Linda McNeil

School is already halfway through Term 2 and hopefully your child has settled in by now. They may have already encountered challenges like forging new friendships, fitting into play groups, understanding school work and staying awake all day long – not easy for primary or secondary students!

While some students seem to breeze through, for others these everyday situations can cause anxiety, which is why mental health and wellbeing is increasingly an area of concern for parents, teachers and students.

Since 2002, Mission Australia has conducted an annual national survey that provides a snapshot of how young people feel about their own lives and broader national issues.

In 2017, over 24,000 young people took part in the Youth Survey and for the first time since the survey began, mental health was noted as the top issue of national concern for young people. It is findings like this that are worrying for parents, many of them noticing mental health-related issues like stress, anxiety and depression in their own children.

A common trigger for stress or anxiety is assessments or exams. NAPLAN tests were held across the country this month and there was a lot of hype and media attention in the lead up to the national assessment. Parents may recall their child saying things like “I don’t feel ready”, “I don’t think I’ll do well”, or asking simply “What if I fail?” which all indicate a level of anxiety. Parents and students may have had feelings of worry over the test, but the reality is that it’s just a small part of a student’s educational experience and should not be a cause for concern. It sounds simple, but if parents can reassure their child of this it can go a long way to helping them cope with the pressures of exams and associated stress, whether it’s NAPLAN or any other assessment.

In 2018, the world is a fast-moving place where families are busy, often with both parents working and there are just too many balls in the air. Inevitably, children (and parents too) will experience times of stress throughout their lives and at different pressure points, like sitting the HSC or changing friendship dynamics. The key is to help build resilience in children, recognise when something is wrong and take steps to support them when they are in need of coping strategies.

Parents who are concerned about their child’s mental health, should con­sider their school as their first port of call so that together you can work to find solutions. There is a range of useful online resources on issues like building resilience as well as recognising and addressing mental health issues including:

• beyondblue.org.au
• kidshelpline.com.au
• headspace.org.au
• kidsmatter.edu.au
• theresiliencedoughnut.com.au

The partners4learning.edu.au website also has a handy tip sheet on managing anxiety, which you can download under ‘Featured Resources’.

The Council of Catholic School Parents (CCSP) NSW/ACT is the peak representative body for parents with children in Catholic schools in NSW and the ACT. Parents and educators can access more handy resources on the CCSP website: www.ccsp.catholic.edu.au