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Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Expert thoughts on 'anxious' children
A new report into the high stress life of England's primary school children has sparked debate among those who work with children about the scale of the problem and how it can be addressed. Here are some of their thoughts.

SUE PALMER, AUTHOR TOXIC CHILDHOOD

Children are feeling that they're not safe, that they don't even trust their friends and that the world is not a safe place for them.

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Children no longer are playing as they did in the past, they are not free range creatures which they always have been and being able to go out and learn about the world that they live in through first hand experience, learn about how to get along with people by actually interacting with their peers.

The tests and targets agenda has particularly impacted on the most disadvantaged children and it has driven the inequalities in this country rather than solving them.

HUGH CUNNINGHAM, AUTHOR THE INVENTION OF CHILDHOOD

I'm not at all surprised that the report showed a level of anxiety about childhood and about children, I think it would have been very surprising if it hadn't.

These things have been around for a long time. Consumerism is not new; stress in schools, I think of 100 years ago, people were deeply concerned about stress in schools.

The background to it I think is that we hang on to a romantic myth of childhood as properly innocent and happy.

People say that children are being forced to grow up too soon and I think that makes us question what is it about the adult world that we are so keen to protect children from.

CLAUDE KNIGHTS, KIDSCAPE CHILDREN'S CHARITY

There is an art in building awareness and preparing a child without frightening them.

We had a lot of parents in touch over the Madeleine McCann situation to seek our advice on how to talk to their children about those risks.

There is a perception of big danger with respect to traffic congestion but the reality is that accidents and fatalities among the 0-15s has dropped dramatically over the past 30 years.

We mustn't hark back to a golden age that did not really exist.

SARAH HOLMES, ST JOHN AMBULANCE

We were very interested to read the report on how children may be losing their innocence. We know from talking to our youth members that they find the changing world a scary place.

At St John Ambulance we try and help combat their fears by showing how they can tackle things like climate change and crime, while giving them a safe place to have fun with their friends.

HILARY FISHER, END CHILD POVERTY

Poverty really does stress children. Even when people try to hide poverty issues from children, they know what's going on from a very young age and they do things like not tell their parents about school trips as they try to protect the parents.

For the children, the stress of not fitting in is very real. There are children who choose not to take free meals rather than being identified as needing them.

CLARE TICKELL, CHIEF EXECUTIVE NCH

The findings of this report are a stark wake-up call to the Government that urgent action must be taken to tackle this problem.

We know from our own research the increasing importance of emotional wellbeing in childhood in determining life chances and later social mobility.

There must be more emphasis on working with vulnerable children and their families to build self-confidence, self-esteem and social skills that will not only ease anxiety through childhood but prepare them well for later life.


SEE ALSO
Primary children 'suffer stress'
12 Oct 07 |  Education

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