Parents ©

“The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children - their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialisation, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.”

United Nations

The above is unquestionable true, and is also true in the family. The responsibility of parents is their child’s health, their safety, their material security, their education, their socialisation, their sense of being loved, valued and included. As parents, can we achieve this if we did not feel cared for, included, loved, safe and valued? 


It’s not all about what happened to us as children, but rather how much we’ve felt the full pain of our childhood and how we’ve made sense of what happened to us that predicts the kind of parent we are. Understanding our past enables us to become aware of different attachment styles; our set of learned behaviours that we have with different people/figures in our lives. Attachment has been defined as an emotional bond between two people, in which each seeks closeness and feels more secure when in the presence of the attachment figure. Our attachment style is our internal working model of how relationships function and influence the way we will relate to important people in our lives. The attachments we formed as children with our parents can have a serious impact on our feelings of anxiety, avoidance, fear, insecurity and satisfaction in close relationships throughout our lives. It is only when we are aware of our attachments that we become truly aware of our present, and indeed past relationships.


Because our attachment pattern was established early in our childhood and is the working model for our adult relationships, recognising our attachment pattern will help us to understand both our strengths and vulnerabilities in our relationships. A parent’s individual style of attachment will affect who they chose to be their partner and how well that relationship will relate. As parents, we need to be aware of what pushes our buttons. Quite frequently an emotion or behaviour of your child may trigger emotions and behaviours in you that are irrelevant or unhelpful to the situation in which you and your child are in.


As parents, it is essential that you separate your feelings and needs from a situation with your child to enable you to respond appropriately. Self-reflection enables you to become more aware of why you think, feel and behave the way you do. At times, you may find yourself stuck in patterns of responding to your child in a way that you don’t like, without even knowing or understanding why.

Irrespective of how we have suffered in our childhood, once we explore, understand and accept the painful realities of our childhood, our parenting style will change positively and we will have a healthier more secure attachment with our children. In tandem with this, we will have a more positive and healthier relationship with our partner. All parents need to realise that their childhood has a lot to do with how they parent.  A large predictor of the attachment style we will have with our children is based on the attachment style we had with our parents.


For a person to have an ability to regulate their own emotions and reactions, it is essential that they first know and understand their own emotions and what drives them. How can a parent create a secure compassionate environment for their children if they do not feel secure and/or compassionate about themselves? Children with a secure attachment can see their parent as a secure base from where they can set out to explore the world and feel safe knowing that they can move freely, and can always return to the parent to feel safe.  


Parents who have formed a secure attachment and see their child as a separate person and will be capable accommodate their child’s needs. It is not possible for a parent to be accommodate their child every minute of the day, however parents who have formed a secure attachment can truly empathise with their child’s experience and be truly present for them. Attachment researcher Edward Tronick, states that parents are attuned to their children about 30% of the time. According to Dr. Dan Siegel, Clinical Professor of psychiatry, if parents are able to “repair the ruptures” that occur between them and their kids, a secure attachment can be sustained.


A child can experience an anxious or preoccupied attachment style when they have a parent who is sometimes there for them, and sometimes not. The child with a secure attachment can trust others to be there for them when in need because they feel secure in themselves while engaging in healthy modes of relating. Children who have formed a secure attachment will grow up better able to maintain their own unique sense of identity and still be able to connect with others.

To arrive at a place of secure attachment, a person must emotionally understand their past.

Emotional Intelligence

Over the last twenty five years Emotional intelligence (EI) has emerged as one of the crucial components of emotional adjustment, life success, personal well-being and interpersonal relationships in everyday life. The essential ingredients to increasing your Emotional Intelligence is your willingness to expose your feelings, vulnerabilities and thoughts.

Your Emotional Intelligence is your ability to perceive, understand, and manage your emotions and emotionally intelligent people can regulate their emotions according to a logically consistent model of emotional functioning. They have the ability to understand and manage their emotions and additionally understand the emotions of others. Their elevated level of emotional intelligence is reflected in their self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy and communication skills. The people who are capable of perceiving emotions accurately, in both themselves and others are better at understanding difficult situations.

The five components of Emotional Intelligence are; ​

  • Self-awareness

  • Self-regulation

  • Motivation

  • Empathy

  • Social skills


Our self-awareness is our ability to recognise and understand our personal emotions, drives and moods and the effects they have on other people.

Our self-regulation is our ability to control our impulses and moods. It is the ability to avoid judgements by thinking before we respond, controlling our impulses.

Our internal motivation consists of our interest in learning what is important. It is our pursuit of self-improvement and the achievement of our goals.

Our empathy is our ability to understand another person’s emotional makeup. It is our ability to treat people according to their emotional reactions. Without self-awareness, one cannot anticipate another person’s needs.

Our social skills indicate our proficiency in managing relationships and building networks. It is our ability to identify a common ground, to build and manage relationships.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

We all have some degree of emotional intelligence, with some people naturally emotionally intelligent and others experiencing great difficulties with emotional comprehension. Emotions can drive us to, sometimes persistently say what we may later regret. Studies have shown that emotional intelligence developed early in life leads to greater academic success. Therapy is an excellent place to improve one’s emotional intelligence.

In this one-to one safe confidential setting a person can become aware of their emotional strengths and weaknesses.


Through therapy, many clients with depression become aware of their lack of emotional intelligence and find that their increase in emotional awareness improves their mental health.

 

Emotional Awareness Course for Teens

The Emotional Awareness Course for Teens is a 2 hour weekly course that runs for 8 weeks. The objective of this course if to enable teens to become aware of their emotions and to know how to control them. The teens attending will also become aware of their thinking patterns, how they are affected by them and how to rid of negative thoughts. In other words, the objective of this course is for the teens attending to feel calm, happy and peaceful in all aspects of their lives. For bookings and information call 022 46618.


There are claims that motor development skills of Irish children are not progressing at the expected rate.

Health researchers at DCU's School of Health and Human Performance have found that the ability of children to master basic tasks is not meeting developmental milestones for fine motor skills .

The results come from a sample of 253 children in Irish primary schools and show that 36% of 11-12 year-olds are below average in tasks such as drawing shapes and sorting cards.

It also found that 13% of children in second class did not match their respective milestone - while 14% of fourth class children also had difficulties.

David Gaul from UCD, one of the lead researchers of the project, says the results are worrying.

"These basic tasks have been used for years to establish, and they're well established, norms of values for young children for tasks they do in everyday life and in school," he said.

"It's particularly alarming that these basic skills are not being developed at the rate that they have previously been developed."


The results come from a sample of 253 children in Irish primary schools and show that 36% of 11-12 year-olds are below average in tasks such as drawing shapes and sorting cards.

It also found that 13% of children in second class did not match their respective milestone - while 14% of fourth class children also had difficulties.

David Gaul from UCD, one of the lead researchers of the project, says the results are worrying.

"These basic tasks have been used for years to establish, and they're well established, norms of values for young children for tasks they do in everyday life and in school," he said.

"It's particularly alarming that these basic skills are not being developed at the rate that they have previously been developed."

Tuesday June 27th 2017
Snapchat introduce location map

A new Snapchat update introducing a map feature that will let their users track each other’s exact location in real-time is raising safety concerns for parents. The Programme director of CyberSafeIreland, Cliona Curley is advising parents to ensure that the privacy settings on their children’s apps are secure. “It’s not a good thing if kids are giving away personal information online, that could include anything from their full name, to their age, to their location. In terms of location in particular, it’s very easy for adults with a sexual interest in children to find them online and correspond with them,” Ms Curley said.

Snapchat ‘Snap Maps’ puts users and their photos onto the new interactive in-app map where their friends and other Snapchat users can track where they are at any given time. The user’s videos and photos posted publicly can then be discovered by anyone on the map. When users of Snapchat activate this feature for the first time, they will be given three options: to make their location visible to all their friends, to selected friends only or to no one at all. Snapchat is calling the latter option ‘ghost mode’. The users who have chosen to share their location with their in-app friends can be seen on a map that shows the exact street they are on, and their precise location on that street.

Safety fears
When a Snapchat users select Ghost Mode, their location is not available to anyone else on the map. However, there are added dangers when people can physically locate your children, as many apps will try to share their location. In certain instances, both children and parents are not aware of this. The CyberSafeIreland Programme Director has advised parents to keep in close contact with their children who are using social media apps, and to keep track of who they’re adding as friends. If parents want to keep their children safe while using Snapchat, it is most important they ensure that the Snapchat ‘ghost mode’ is being used. Parents need to review their children’s friend lists, ensuring that they know everyone on it.

UNICEF report on teen suicide in Ireland

21st June 2017


Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries is the first report to assess the status of children in 41 high-income countries in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identified as most important for child wellbeing. UNICEF Ireland chief executive Peter Power described the report card as a "wake-up call" for Ireland. "Despite economic recovery and the idea that the consequent rising tide will benefit everyone, it is clear children are experiencing real and substantial inequality," he said. "Services are inadequate in several areas and policy change is badly needed."


This report from UNICEF shows that Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide amongst teenagers in the EU/OECD region. This latest report card on child well-being which shows that Ireland’s rate for teens losing their lives by suicide is much higher than the international average. The Psychology Society of Ireland, ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday have called for great focus on measures to tackle the high rates of suicide among teenagers in Ireland.


The society’s chief executive Terri Morrissey said depression and suicidal thoughts among teenagers were major health problems in Ireland but early intervention and the promotion of well-being and resilience could prevent such issues. “Far too often we hear about such issues when it is already too late and we have to deal with the consequences and aftermath. Intervening at an early stage would have been effective,” she said.


Ms Morrissey added, “there is a range of methods and therapies that have been demonstrated to have been effective and which can be used to prevent behavioural, psychological and emotional problems. Well-being and resilience can be promoted through sport, exercise, healthy eating, parental support and other forms of physical, emotional and mental development.”


The rate for Irish adolescents aged between 15 and 19 per 100,000 population Ireland’s 10.3, ranking 34th out of the 37 wealthy nations surveyed. This seriously high rate is well above the national country average of 6.1 per 100,000.


This report shows another worry, with a rise in the self-reporting of mental health issues among adolescents in Ireland. It tells us that 22.6% of children aged between 11 and 15 have stated that they had experienced two or more psychological symptoms more than once a week.


Other findings regarding Irish children 

  • 18.3% of children are living in relative income poverty

  • 23% of children in Ireland are living in multidimensional poverty

  • 17.9% of Irish children under 15 live with an adult who is ‘food insecure’

  • 9.1% of 15-19-year-olds here are not in education, employment or training


Europol Report

19th June 2017

The European Union police agency Europol launched a campaign warning of the rise in online extortion targeting children. Children as young as 7 are falling prey to the crime known as sextortion or webcam blackmail. This online coercion and extortion of children, which is a form of digital blackmail where sexual information or images are used to extort sexual material, sexual favours or money has rocketed in recent years and remains largely under-reported. The criminals prey on children who have shared sexual images of themselves online, targeting them to get more sexually explicit material for financial gain.


A new trend is where the perpetrator demands for the victim child to include other children, such as peers or siblings in the images/videos.  In these instances, children who use safe practices online, or younger children who may not use the Internet can be targeted. It is most important not to underestimate the personal and psychological toll on these victims as a number of children have reportedly committed suicide in the last few years having fallen victim to this crime.


Europol’s report reveals that female child victims are being blackmailed more significantly for sexually explicit material (84%) compared to their male counterparts (53%). The exact figures regarding the increase in the crime are not available, in many instances because the victims are unwilling to make a report due to embarrassment regarding the material they provided or lack of awareness that they have been subjected to a criminal offence. Europol says the phenomenon is skyrocketing and therefore cyber safety is a most important child protection issue and we need to listen to young people and children and be there for them.


Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre; “Children are increasingly using the online environment to communicate and form relationships and this should be considered as a natural part of their development. However, it is our collective responsibility to educate them on the threats they may experience and also protect them to make the online environment as safe as possible.  Where something untoward happens online we should provide clear and effective reporting and support mechanisms so they understand where to turn to for assistance. Don’t pay and don’t feel embarrassed to report it to the police. If someone threatens you with sharing sexual photos or videos of you unless you send them more or pay them money, follow these steps:


  • Don’t share more, don’t pay anything.

  • Look for help. You are not alone.

  • Preserve evidence. Don’t delete anything.

  • Stop the communication. Block the person.

  • Report it to the police.


https://www.europol.europa.eu/sayno.




Children's ability to master basic tasks declining, study finds

Wednesday, June 07, 2017 

Worldwide, less than one third of young people are sufficiently active to benefit their current and future health. Females are less active than males. In addition, the proportion of children and young people who walk or cycle to school, a source of daily physical activity, is declining dramatically (17). Schools are an important setting for young people to take part in, and learn about, physical activity.


Through physical education programmes, free play activity and extra-curricular sport, schools can provide time, facilities and guidance for children and youth to safely access physical activity opportunities and develop competence and confidence in an environment that is supported by teachers, parents and friends. Schools are also a setting for under-represented population sub groups to gain access to quality physical activity experiences.


However, decreasing physical education programmes in schools, pressure from the school curriculum to reduce time spent in free play, lack of training and senior management support for teachers, particularly at the primary level, and the removal of dedicated green spaces or play areas in schools is an alarming trend worldwide.


The challenge of stemming the withdrawal of young people from structured clubs during their teenage years (particularly young girls) is daunting. For some children and youth, club involvement will give them an enriched experience to add to their physical education experience, for others it may lead to a discontinuation of sport.


Participation in extra school clubs is an important strategy to help children and young people achieve the recommended daily amount of physical activity. Innate gender differences, developmental differences among children with the same chronological age and the variety and quality of sport opportunities that children and youth are exposed to are some of the factors that make working with children and youth very challenging.


It is important that teachers, coaches and club volunteers are provided with appropriate support to assist them develop their pedagogical and coaching skills in order to meet the demands of mixed ability. An understanding of the factors influencing successful involvement in physical activity, physical education and extra-school club sport is essential.

Physical inactivity is a major underlying cause of death, disease and disability (22). There is increasing concern at the rapidly decreasing levels of fitness in children and youth (23). Preliminary data from a World Health Organisation (WHO) study on risk factors identified a sedentary lifestyle as one of the ten leading global causes of death and disability, with more than two million deaths each year are attributable to physical inactivity (24). Children and young people need to be encouraged to reduce the amount of time spent in sedentary activities such as TV and video viewing, and playing computer games especially during daylight hours.

 

Irish children are spending over five hours a day online

Friday, June 02, 2017

The World Health Organisation guidelines say that children should be spending no more than two hours per day in front of screens. A new obesity and behaviour study by iKydz has shown YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are the most popular sites visited by children. Current European guidelines also recommend no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time and according to the survey of 1,100 homes in Ireland, Irish children are trebling this guideline. Children as young as five are spending an average of five and a half hours a day online, with YouTube and other social media sites accounting for 86 per cent of their usage. The study also reported that parents were most concerned about the type of things their young children were accessing and then the amount of time older children and teenagers were spending online. Reachout.com has said that is extremely worrying as it means that children will find it difficult to switch off. 


The results of this study tell parents that their children are spending almost half of their day on IPad and other devices. Around 18 per cent of parents said the amount of time their children were spending online was a concern to them. Parents need to be conscious of their own internet use and set a good example to their children/teenagers. Establishing boundaries is another crucial necessity for parents, as 18.3 per cent of Irish parents fears of exposure to inappropriate content. Another worry, is that their children might come across something unsuitable online.  At 14 per cent, l ack of sleep caused by overuse of their screen devices was the third biggest worry for the parents surveyed.


The children’s social media sites usage was, YouTube 23%, Facebook 22%, Instagram 14%, Twitter 10%, WhatsApp 9%, Snapchat 8%, Netflix 5%, Amazon 4%, Xbox Live 3% and EA Games 2%.

Secondary school students believe social media affects studies

Mon, May 9, 2017

Shapchat overtakes Facebook as most used app among Irish secondary school students


More than half of Irish secondary school students said social media had affected their schoolwork, a new study has found. The second annual Student Attitudes Index by the Studyclix.ie website found 56 per cent of student said social media impact on their schoolwork while 76 per cent said they had used a smart phone to study.


The survey also found Snapchat has overtaken Facebook as the most used app among Irish secondary school students, with 90 per cent having a registered account. That is 10 per cent up on last year. However, 88 per cent said they use Facebook, with Instagram also very popular at 81 per cent, up from 68 per cent in 2015. Twitter use trails at 50 per cent.


Increasing numbers of school students (14 per cent) said they have signed up to adult dating app Tinder with usage levels running at 32 per cent among Sligo students, 24 per cent in Clare, 19 per cent in Cork, and 8 per cent in Dublin. The survey explored a range of topics and day-to-day issues experienced by secondary school students. It said its website is used by 57,031 registered secondary school students and also by thousands of registered secondary school teachers.


The survey involved 2,001 responses, 68 per cent girls, 32 per cent boys. Participation in the survey was heavily skewed towards students in senior years, ranging from 34 students in first years, through 123 second years, 448 third years, just 10, fourth/Transition years, 371 fifth years and 1,004 sixth years.


Where bullying is concerned, 58 per cent of the students said it is up to schools to stop bullying compared with 40 per cent who think it is the duty of online moderators and companies.

Schools should do more to stop bullying say 36 per cent of students while 39 per cent agree that LGBT students need to be better protected in schools. The students do not think too highly of politicians with 85 per cent claiming that newly elected TDs are only out for themselves.


More generally, 52 per cent of students think it unlikely or highly unlikely they will be able to purchase a house in their home county when they begin working while 50 per cent say it is unlikely or highly unlikely that they will end up working in their home county when they finish their education. The cost of rent will influence wherever in Ireland they choose to go to college/university 47 per cent say. When it comes to emigration 56 per cent think it ‘likely’ they will do so at some point in their lives.

 

Secondary School students admit to smartphone addiction

May 23rd 2017

Student Attitudes Index investigates device use, exercise and feeling on education loans


Almost half the children in Irish secondary schools say they are addicted to smartphones with even greater numbers admitting to routinely and secretly checking devices in class, according to a survey published this morning.


While the third annual Student Attitudes Index from website Studyclix.ie indicates that 60 per cent of students are worried about how much they used their phones, 80 per cent of more than 2,600 children polled said they also used the devices for educational purposes. The survey found that Snapchat remains the most used social media platform, with Instagram pushing Facebook out of the number two slot and Twitter someway adrift in fourth place. Almost one in 10 students said they had a Tinder account.


It revealed that girls in particular are turning their backs on exercise as they move up through the years at secondary school and suggests that 53 per cent of girls in sixth year do not participate in PE classes at all compared to just 15 per cent in second year.


Monthly payback

All told, 88 per cent of students said they would be prepared to pay back some money for student loans after college, with 24 per cent agreeing that somewhere between €150 and €160 a month would be acceptable.


Stressing about exams remains students’ biggest worry with 70 per cent identifying exams as the most stressful thing in their lives. Appearance was in second place on 11 per cent and family on 8 per cent.


Teenage brain

“As much as they would like to think otherwise, the teenage brain is not good at multitasking. Having a constant stream of messages and updates arriving on their smartphones is a major distraction to students trying to study,” Studyclix.ie founder Luke Saunders said.


Reacting to the survey, the head of the National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, Clive Byrne, recognised the importance of technology in the educational sphere but said many teachers were unaware of how easily students could be distracted by their mobile phones.


“My hunch is that many teachers don’t realise it is happening on the scale this survey suggests it is happening,” he said. “Maybe we need to be more reactive. I don’t think a blanket ban is the way forward, however, as there is little point in introducing a ban which is completely unenforceable.”


Report sheds light on digital addiction among Irish children

Mon, Feb 9, 2015

‘Net Children Go Mobile’ report reveals one in five have encountered distressing content

A major report published on internet use among Irish children shows that, while they are rapidly developing their online skills, a higher proportion are reporting seeing distressing content when using laptops, tablets and smartphones. One in five nine to 16-year-olds said they had accessed harmful or distressing content, double the rate in 2011.


In the 15-16 age bracket, the proportion saying they had seen something they wished they hadn’t – such as discriminatory messages, self-harm sites or forums discussing drug usage – was as high as 37 per cent.


The Net Children Go Mobile 2015 report, carried out through interviews with a nationally representative sample of 500 children by researchers at Dublin Institute of Technology, found just under half (46 per cent) had access to the internet from their bedrooms. And 14 per cent of this nine to 16-year-old cohort said they went online “a lot” after 9PM.


Dr Brian O’Neill, co-author of the report, says this incessant access to digital devices raises concerns about online bullying and access to harmful content.


“Young people are always online, always connected and always available with no escape.”

However, he believes parents must be careful not to lecture children about internet use. “Children often pick up these habits from parents. Digital use is a matter for everybody.”

The report found 60 per cent of children believe they know more about the internet than their parents, with young girls claiming a more critical understanding than boys. Their online skills include bookmarking websites, deleting website records, changing privacy settings and blocking messages from strangers.


Not surprisingly, young people are becoming more dependent on social networking sites for communicating with their peers. Nearly 40 per cent of those aged 11-12 admitted setting up a profile despite bans across most sites on users under 13 signing up.


This number has dropped since 2011, when 51 per cent of this age group were reportedly signing up to sites with phony accounts. In the latest report, nine out of 10 in the 15-16 age bracket said they had a social networking profile, while 58 per cent reported using the internet excessively.


A 16-year-old boy interviewed during the research confessed: “With the internet connected constantly you’re never offline . . . Like, you always log Facebook on your phone, unless you log out . . . but it’s kind of a hassle to log in and log out. But even if you sit in class; you can have 10 seconds and check your newsfeed.”


Peer pressure

Dr O’Neill blames peer pressure for the constant need to stay connected and worries it could lead to an increase in online bullying.

“The internet is a large, vast, unregulated space. There can be violent content, scary content, sexual content that disturbs them.”

Girls seem to be most vulnerable to online bullying, with 26 per cent reporting abuse compared with 17 per cent of boys.

The rate of reported online bullying increased from 22 per cent in 2011 to 23 per cent in 2014, despite claims from sites such as Facebook and Ask.fm of increased regulation and moderation.


Online abuse

A 13-year-old girl interviewed for the study spoke of the abuse she suffered online. “I cried, it was an old friend, who was jealous of me that because I went to this new school and she saw I have more friends and so, she was very jealous, she said bad things about me like I was ugly and I wasn’t spending much time with her, and I spend more time with other new friends not with her.”


Reports of exposure to sexual images have risen from 17 per cent in 2011 to 21 per cent, with children encountering hate and discriminatory messages, anorexic or bulimic content, self-harm sites and sites discussing suicide.


“Stranger danger” is another issue for many children when they are exploring the web.

“This is a very extreme and rare form of danger in terms of predatory contact,” says Dr O’Neill. “The internet has access on a global stage to lots of potentially unsavoury individuals.”


However, he says perceptions of internet safety in Ireland are changing, with parents becoming more proactive and engaging with their children’s internet use. Webwise.ie educates and promotes dialogue between children, teachers and parents on safe and appropriate use of the internet.

 

Cyberbullying 

Anti Bullying Centre DCU

A survey carried out by the Anti Bullying Centre at DCU, revealed that ‘while Irish parents perceive themselves to be vigilant in monitoring computer and internet usage, there is an over-reliance on their children giving them accurate accounts of their online activity – especially on social media, where only 18% of parents supervise activity. And while many children may show honesty in this area, there is also a well-established “digital deceit” pattern in pre-teen and teen dealings with their parents that can leave them vulnerable online, especially to cyberbullying.


While over half of parents do engage in social media such as Facebook, they have almost no interaction with Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat, which are the platforms of choice for their teen and pre-teen children.


In regards to bullying specifically, 65% of respondents spoke often/always with their children about bullying on the internet, however 16.5% of parents had never or hardly ever spoke to their children about cyberbullying. While when quizzed about social networks, 65% of parents said they always/often spoke to their children about their friends on social networks, and 65% spoke often/always about their profiles in social networks. 24% of respondents did not speak or hardly ever spoke to their children about their profiles on social networks, while 20% did not speak to them or hardly ever spoke to them about their friends on social networks.’

Children who have experienced cyberbullying may

  • Feel anxious, depressed, lonely or insecure and feel like crying a lot.

  • Be unable to concentrate in class.

  • Feel angry and wonder why this is happening to you.

  • Regularly end up in physical fights or arguments while trying to defend yourself.

  • Feel afraid to go to school and nervous if you’re on your own.

  • Think the problem is relentless and wonder if it will ever stop.

  • Feel lonely, isolated and avoid group situations.

  • Spend a lot of time trying to figure out what to do or where to go to avoid being harassed.

  • Think your parents would be worried or upset if you told them.

  • Notice that your health is suffering such as changes in your appetite, difficulty sleeping or tension headaches.

  • Feel afraid to check text messages or emails or look at social networking sites like Facebook in case there’s another cruel message about you.

  • Start to think that maybe the insults and taunts are true and wonder if it’s your own fault.

  • Have mood swings with a range of feelings from loneliness to anger.

  • Wish you could talk to someone but you are not sure what you want to say.

  • No longer enjoy the things you used to enjoy and drop out of activity groups or clubs.

  • Feel trapped, helpless, withdrawn and like no one understands.

  • Notice that these feelings are causing you to be unhappy at home and you are feeling moody or short tempered with your parents/carers, brothers or sisters.

 

Almost two thirds of Irish students interviewed as part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Pisa study said that they suffered from anxiety, even when well prepared for an exam, notably higher than the 55 per cent OECD average.  April 19th 2017 

Most teenagers happy with their lives but schoolwork anxiety and bullying an issue

Teenagers who feel part of a school community and enjoy good relations with their parents and teachers are more likely to perform better academically and be happier with their lives, according to the first OECD PISA assessment of students’ well-being.


Students’ Well-Being: PISA 2015 Results analyses for the first time students’ motivation to perform well in school, their relationships with peers and teachers, their home life, and how they spend their time outside of school. The findings are based on a survey of 540,000 students in 72 participating countries and economies who also completed the main OECD PISA 2015 test on science, mathematics and reading.


Many students are very anxious about school work and tests and the analysis reveals this is not related to the number of school hours or the frequency of tests but with how supportive they feel their teachers and schools to be: on average across OECD countries, 59% of students reported they often worry that taking a test will be difficult, and 66% reported feeling stressed about poor grades. Some 55% of students say they are very anxious for a test even if they are well prepared. In all countries, girls reported greater schoolwork-related anxiety than boys; and anxiety about schoolwork, homework and tests is negatively related to performance.


Teachers play a big role in creating the conditions for students’ well-being at school and governments should not define the role of teachers solely through the number of instruction hours. Happier students tend to report positive relations with their teachers. Students in schools where life satisfaction is above the national average reported a higher level of support from their teacher than students in schools where life satisfaction is below average.


 “These findings show how teachers, schools and parents can make a real difference to children’s well-being,” said OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos, launching the report in London. “Together they can help young people develop a sense of control over their future and the resilience they need to be successful in life. There is no secret, you perform better if you feel valued, if you feel well treated, if you are given a hand to succeed!”


Parents can make a big difference too. Students whose parents reported “spending time just talking to my child”, “eating the main meal with my child around a table” or “discussing how well my child is doing at school” regularly were between 22% and 39% more likely to report high levels of life satisfaction. The academic impact is also significant: students who spent time talking with their parents were two-thirds of a school year ahead in science learning, and even after accounting for socio-economic status, the advantage remains at one-third of a school year.


The survey revealed that bullying was a major issue in schools, with a large proportion of students reporting being victims. On average across OECD countries, around 4% of students – roughly one per class – reported that they are hit or pushed at least a few times per month, a percentage that varies from 1% to 9.5% across countries. Bullying is lower in schools where students have positive relationships with their teachers. Parents need to be involved in school planning and responses to bullying, and schools need to collaborate with other institutions and services to put in place comprehensive prevention and response plans.


On average across OECD countries, most 15-year-old students are happy with their lives, reporting a level of 7.3 on a scale of life satisfaction that ranges from 0 to 10. But there are large variations across countries: while less than 4% of students in the Netherlands said that they were not satisfied with their life, more than 20% of students in Korea and Turkey were. Girls and disadvantaged students are less likely than boys and advantaged students to report high levels of life satisfaction. The lower life satisfaction reported by 15-year-old girls in PISA is possibly a reflection of girls’ harsh self-criticism, particularly related to their image of their own bodies at a time when they are undergoing major physical changes. PISA 2015 does not collect data on students’ body image, but the results on eating habits reveal that girls were much more likely than boys to skip breakfast and more likely to skip dinner.


Research suggests that exposure to images of overly thin girls and women in traditional media and social media has a negative impact on girls’ satisfaction with themselves. The causes of this are complex and multi-faceted, but the role of the media in promoting gender stereotypes seems to be undermining girls’ well-being and the OECD is starting to look at this issue intensively.


Performance at school and life satisfaction

Most students in 67 countries and economies feel that they belong to the school community. Disadvantaged students were 7.7 percentage points less likely than advantaged students to report that they feel that they belong at school, and first-generation immigrant students 4.6 percentage points less likely than students without an immigrant background.

Girls were more likely than boys to report that they want top grades at school and that they want to be able to select among the best opportunities when they graduate. But boys were more likely than girls to describe themselves as ambitious and to aspire to be the best, whatever they do.

On average across OECD countries, 44% of 15-years-old students expect that they will complete university. In Colombia, Korea, Qatar and the United States, more than three out of four students expect so. Students’ expectations of further education are influenced by education policy, particularly the degree of sorting students into different education tracks.


Students’ social life at school

One in five students reported that they experience some form of unfair treatment by their teachers (they are harshly disciplined, or feel offended or ridiculed in front of others) at least a few times in a given month.

Girls are less likely than boys to become victims of physical aggressions, but are more likely to be the object of nasty rumours.

Students attending schools where bullying is frequent, by international standards, score 47 points lower in science than students in schools where bullying occurs less frequently. Students who reported being frequently exposed to bullying also reported a weaker sense of belonging at school and less satisfaction with life.


Students’ use of their time outside of school

About 6.6% of students across OECD countries do not engage in any kind of moderate or vigorous physical activity outside of school, and the share of physically inactive students is 1.8 percentage points higher among girls than among boys. Physically active students are less likely than those who do not participate in any kind of physical activity outside of school to skip school, feel like an outsider at school, feel very anxious about schoolwork, or be frequently bullied.

On average across OECD countries, around 23% of students reported that they work for pay and 73% reported that they work in the house before or after school. More boys than girls work for pay, and fewer boys than girls do unpaid household chores.

On average across OECD countries, students spend more than two hours on line during a typical weekday after school, and more than three hours on line during a typical weekend day. Between 2012 and 2015, the time spent on line outside of school increased by around 40 minutes per day on both weekdays and weekends.


What the PISA results imply for policy:

To try to reduce schoolwork-related anxiety among students, specific professional development can be offered to teachers so that they can identify those students who suffer from anxiety and teach these students how to learn from mistakes. For example, one way to encourage a positive attitude towards mistakes is to take the most common mistakes that the class made on a test or quiz and let the students analyse them together. In addition, teachers can help students set realistic – but challenging – goals for themselves, since students are more likely to value what they are learning, and to enjoy the process of learning, when they can attain the goals they set. Strategies for encouraging goal-setting and enhancing intrinsic motivation to learn include providing meaningful rationales for learning activities, acknowledging students’ feelings about the tasks, and avoiding excessive pressure and control. Providing constructive feedback on the results of assessments can also nurture students’ confidence and intrinsic motivation.


PISA finds that one major threat to students’ feelings of belonging at school are their perceptions of negative relationships with their teachers. To build better teacher-student relations, teachers should be trained in basic methods of observation, listening and intercultural communication so that they can better take into account individual learners’ needs. Teachers should also be encouraged to collaborate and exchange information about students’ difficulties, character and strengths with their colleagues, so that they can collectively find the best approach to make students feel part of the school community.

The data also show that a large proportion of students report being victims of bullying at school. Effective anti-bullying programmes follow a whole-of-school approach that includes training for teachers on bullying behaviour and how to handle it, anonymous surveys of students to monitor the prevalence of bullying, and strategies to provide information to and engage with parents. Teachers and parents have a particularly important role to play in preventing bullying at school: teachers need to communicate to students that they will not tolerate any form of bullying; and parents need to be involved in school planning and responses to bullying.


PISA results from 18 culturally and economically diverse countries show that students whose parents routinely engage in day-to-day home-based activities, such as eating a meal together or spending time “just talking” not only score higher in PISA, but are also more satisfied with their lives. Schools can help parents become more involved in their child’s education by removing any barriers to their participation in school events, such as offering flexible channels of communication for busy working parents, and suggesting ways in which parents can get involved both at home and in school.


To improve students’ well-being, schools should also teach students the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle through physical and health education. Engaging physical education at school can reduce the number of students who are physically inactive out of school.

 

Gene Barry Psychotherapist

© Gene Barry