Large numbers of children are worrying about so-called ‘adult issues’ like Brexit, homelessness and terrorism, according to research by Action for Children.
The survey of 5,000 UK children and adults from three generations found the majority fear childhoods are getting worse.
Bullying – both online and offline, inside and outside of school – was the biggest problem that prevented a good childhood, according to the survey’s respondents.
And 91% of children – aged between 11 and 18 – said they were worrying about ‘adult issues’.
This included 50% worrying about poverty and homelessness, 49% about terrorism, 48% about the environment, 41% about inequality – such as sexism and racism – and 38% worrying about Brexit.
Our member Jennie Cummings-Knight said: “This is something I come across in therapy. It is really sad that children are being affected in this way.
“Children are being exposed to these issues from a younger age. With social media they can be coming across different pressures 24 hours a day.
“I’ve spoken to young children who have a general sense of hopelessness. They don’t see that life has any value. It’s incredibly difficult to see themselves further down the line, to picture their future.”
Whole family context
She added: “We have to look at how we can support them with this. It’s often not just solely about the child – but about the whole family context.
“Parents are already overburdened with people telling them what to do and how to be a good parent. This is about shifting focus a bit and looking at how we can support the child holistically if they have these worries.”
“But I think there are very simple things parents can do. One of those is to try to remember to have adult conversations out of earshot of children. It’s about separating those adult and children conversations. A lot of parents don’t realise how their children can be at risk from these conversations or how much they may worry about what they hear their parents talking about,” added Jennie, a Norfolk-based counsellor.
The survey also revealed differences between what adults and children believe young people’s concerns are.
Pressure at school
Children said pressure at school was one of the top three problems facing childhood.
Adults were more concerned about screen time than children.
Parents and grandparents under estimated children’s fears about being a victim of crime, such as knife crime or terrorism, and the state of their mental health.
To find a counsellor or psychotherapist who specialises in children and young people, visit our Therapist directory.