A burden shared is a burden halved, says Helen O’Callaghan.

KEEPING things bottled up isn’t good for you — the feelings can build up until your head feels like it might explode. 

This is the message of new fun animation and song ‘Headbomz’, part of an ISPCC Childline campaign — supported by Vodafone Ireland Foundation — to get children talking.

The initiative targets eight to 10-year-olds, reminding them that talking makes us stronger. 

Billed as ‘slightly gory, massively squelchy and ultimately standout’, the light-hearted educational programme was developed after new research found children in this age group need more support to help them open up about their problems.

The survey of 300 eight to 18-year-olds nationwide, found 95% of children have problems they want to discuss — bullying, limits to freedom and parental problems are key worries.

Childline’s interim CEO and director of services, Caroline O’Sullivan, says children undergo major cognitive and social development between second and fourth class.

While very young children know “they’re fabulous and amazing”, O’Sullivan says this self-image gets knocked once they hit age eight. 

It is vital for children to talk about their feelings

“They’ve been at school a couple of years. They start to become aware of other people’s views of them and they place a lot of importance on these views. It’s an age at which they start looking outside themselves and see there’s more to life than Mom and Dad.”

O’Sullivan says many children don’t have enough language around emotion, but talk about being sad, mad or bad. 

“We need to give them language to help them express frustration, worry, upset, being frightened, feeling unworthy or having low self-esteem. 

"So the child is able to say ‘I feel upset’ and the parent says ‘it’s OK to feel upset’ and then asks ‘what happened before you felt upset?’ In this way, the child recognises there’s a reason for his/her feeling.”

The research confirmed 82% of under-18s in Ireland have regular internet access. 

“Length of childhood is reducing,” says O’Sullivan.

“Children are getting smartphones at First Communion. They’re seeing more and they’re under a lot of pressure. Online media promotes a perception that everybody’s having a great life. Eight-year-olds don’t realise this is just a front to make people look good.”

The advice is to talk through problems with a friend, relative, teacher or Childline (1800-666666; text talk 50101).

* Headbomz song available at www.headbomz.ie 

TOP TIPS

* Talk and listen to children about ‘small’ worries — otherwise, how can we expect them to come to us with their big concerns?

* Be prepared to listen.

* Rather than I-told-you-so responses, teach solution-seeking approaches, ie child’s worried about test – instead of reprimanding for not studying, ask ‘what can you do at this point?’

* Teach decision- making: ‘If I say yes, what are the consequences? If I say no, what are the consequences?’


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