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Sun May 29 00:08:43 SAST 2016

South African children face burnout

Nashira Davids | 15 January, 2016 00:41
"Children are battling to be all-rounders and their schedules are too busy. They are almost burning out," Chambers said. File photo
Image by: MOELETSI MABE

Pressure to perform academically is petrifying many young children so much that their mental health is suffering.

The performance of matrics is most often discussed but the stress primary school pupils are under is often overlooked.

The SA Depression and Anxiety Group reports that an increasing number of young children are phoning its helpline with concerns about school, family issues and trauma.

Some are as young as nine.

"We have children from primary schools asking how to study, how to prepare for exams, how to deal with bullying," said the group's operations director, Casey Chambers.

"They lack coping skills and they don't know whom to speak to when the pressure starts.

"Children are battling to be all-rounders and their schedules are too busy. They are almost burning out," Chambers said.

Clinical psychologist Liane Lurie said children often found it hard to tell their parents that they were struggling academically.

"There is an expectation that you have to do well, especially for young children, when your identity is very much honed on the approval of your parents," said Lurie.

Lurie has found that youngsters feel they have to support their often financially stressed mothers and fathers.

She sees children from as young as 10 who have eating disorders.

"We celebrate the kids with distinctions and we forget about the ones who have tried their best."

The CEO of the Federation of School Governing Bodies, Paul Colditz, said: "Children know that if they do not perform well their chances of getting into a tertiary institution or getting employment are very slim."

Mother-of-three Chrizelda Kaalmeyer said her seven-year-old had set goals for himself and struggles when he does not succeed.

"Last year he did not get an award for maths and he insisted that I send him to extra classes. He was in tears," said Kaalmeyer.

Jessica Shelver, spokesman for Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said help for stressed children was available.

"We urge parents to keep a watchful eye on their children when the children are feeling stressed. Parents need to raise this with the school governing body or alert the education department's district officials. Each district has a psychologist, social worker and counsellor," said Shelver.

She said there had a been a growth in demand for counselling and the department had increased its budget correspondingly.

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