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Kicker: Stress factors

Headline: High expectations lead to anxiety

Today, stress and pressure are oft-repeated terms when it comes to a child’s mental state. It is apparent that the education system has elevated the bar, increasing expectations from students. This causes parents to exert pressure on children to excel and live up to unreasonable expectations, without realising the associated psychological cost.

Children seem to worry about what their future holds as they are constantly being drilled with the pressure of performing well to ensure success. Pressure, at times, can be good as it makes one strive harder but bear in mind — it has its consequences. There are many factors that can come into play when talking about stressors. Family life is a big part of it as parents sometimes put unrealistic hopes on their children and out of fear of “disappointing” them, children go to extreme lengths to fulfil those aspirations.

Factors such as technology also seem to have an effect. Most schools have integrated the usage of technology in the curriculum to the point that if you can’t work with a device, you can’t get a lot of school work done. Use of technology can also lead to issues such as fatigue and cyberbullying. With technology comes usage of social media. Everyone is so connected with each other that children are constantly feeling the pressure of keeping up appearances. In essence, I believe there is an unnecessary amount of peer pressure and stress on students as compared to before.

From Ms Aisha Ahmad

Psychology graduate and learning support assistant based in Duai

Kicker: Support system

Headline: Parents need to step up their game

Today’s adolescents face some of the most trying and difficult times as compared to the children of yesteryears. They face a host of challenges that can cause extreme stress. Some level of stress or competitiveness is healthy and helpful to motivate them but placing very high benchmarks or poorly managed stress can create potentially serious problems like anxiety, fear, depression, aggression and chronic worrying.

In the past, only adults were known to suffer from anxiety and stress but today children seem to be just as stressed as adults. Rapid advancement of technology and information overload has taken a toll on the younger generation leading to serious identity crisis and low self-esteem. Some of the other stressors are academic, peer, family and social pressure.

School and university students are expected to perform at a much higher level than in the past. Everything is moving at a faster pace and they are expected to keep up with this, which automatically puts very high pressure on them. Most teenagers feel sad, depressed or overwhelmed because of this. Stress makes them tired and unable to enjoy their life in the manner that they should.

A good support system plays a vital role in reducing the stress levels in children. Parents need to be aware of the common causes of stress to help their teenagers reduce stress and develop better coping strategies. A proper balance of studies, extra-curricular activities, family time and fun time is essential.

From Ms Shobana Pisharody

Hypnotherapist and parent based in Dubai

Kicker: Unreal targets

Headline: Social media creates an ‘ideal body, ideal image’ standard

I do agree with the study — children today are definitely under a lot more pressure. If we talk about Dubai, life is so fast-paced that you can’t catch up. Every day there is something new happening. The same is with social media. Especially when it comes to teenagers, they look up to these role models on social media who promote a perfect image, which creates unnecessary pressure.

Back in the day, television time was regulated for children. There was a certain time in the day when you could watch TV and that was it. Today, that is not the case. Even if they are not watching TV, they are constantly on social media. The effect that has is deeper and more subtle. I think it also creates identity loss as they automatically start comparing themselves to what they’re seeing on their feeds and become depressed without taking into consideration that people tend to share the moments they ‘want’ to share. For example, people are more likely to share those moments when they are having fun and wouldn’t necessarily post pictures when they are depressed or upset. However, children are more likely to compare their lives with their friends assuming they have the perfect life.

Also, social media takes up a lot of time. If you’re doing homework and are on Whatsapp simultaneously, you’ll inevitably be on Whatsapp much longer, which affects time management. Also, their brain is constantly wired to technology, which adds to the stress.

Another aspect is how parents deal with their children — the amount of expectations they sometimes put on their children is harmful.

From Ms Sherouk Zakaria

Media person working in a Dubai-based agency.

Kicker: Challenge

Headline: Extra pressure makes students stronger

As a grade 10 student, I certainly feel more pressure than I saw my seniors facing when I was in grade four. Though they achieved their dreams then, it cannot be said that it was because of the pressure they felt. In an entrance exam where a single mark makes the difference between the topper and the above average student, every student faces competition and pressure; whether it be the school topper or the average student.

Now coming to the positive side of this pressure. It helps students manage their time better. The pressure helps them face the real world outside. This helps them become a better person in terms of being more realistic and facing the challenges of the world.

Everything good also has something bad in it. The pressure faced by students for that single mark, which makes that difference, can turn the person from realistic to a secluded person. This can in turn lead to the social and mental breakdown of the students previously faced only by managers and company owners.

A report from Pennsylvania State University states that more than 30 per cent of students who seek services for mental health issues report that they have seriously considered attempting suicide at some point in their lives, up from about 24 per cent in 2010.

The conclusion would be that today’s students certainly face more pressure than students 50 years ago. But, the students today will grow up to be much tougher and mentally stable than the previous generation.

From Mr M.N. Vivekanandhan

Student based in Dubai

Kicker: Spoilt

Headline: Children are creating their own pressure

This debate points towards a very important area in the lives of children today - anxiety. I would like to state that it’s not anxiety created by the thought of going to school, or separation anxiety experienced while leaving their home and parents. It is the elevated sense of self they have built within themselves for their own convenience. But is it really making their lives easy and anxiety–free?

The society that’s built on a few wires of technology can never supersede the wireless connection that was built through relations in the past.

Today’s child does not have a healthy relationship in his society; he has created a gap between himself and the people around him.

Pressure on children to be well-behaved should not be termed as pressure. Children in the past faced many pressure-filled situations but they were still easy-going, not anxious or rebellious.

Teachers have too many obligations and impositions these days. Earlier there was a free hand given to teachers to educate children. Disciplining a child by, for example, making them stay back in school for detention cannot be done because parents would come back and complain. They also have a materialistic understanding of education where they believe education, like everything else, comes with a price tag. They do not support teachers, which is why teachers are not able to give as much attention as they would like to.

Parents and the teachers need to complement each other. Right now, they are in a competition and children are taking advantage.

From Ms Sudha Kathuria

School principal based in Dubai

Facebook comments:

I agree with the study. Nowadays education isn’t just a means to gain knowledge. It has become the means to a better life. So parents and schools put more than normal pressure on the child to succeed. Previously having a doctor in the family or an engineer was considered a source of pride for the family, it has now become akin to a commodity. If you aren’t educated enough, you don’t get married either, you don’t get a good job, you don’t get loans. A child today is almost given a heart attack to succeed in today’s world, with less play and more home work.

From Ms Nilofer Taher

UAE

I dont really agree but it could be true keeping in mind the advances that this generation has made. What we can consider, though, is that the anxiety level during 1950s were due to the fact that people were less privileged to use means of support from for example Google or perhaps day-to-day usage of mechanical item. This could mean that their anxiety level had a deeper connection to actual psychological problems compared to today’s highschool children.

From Ms Sumera Malik

Sharjah

— Compiled by Huda Tabrez/Trainee with Readers Desk and Donia Jenabzadeh/Community Web Editor