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Mental health problems in children and adolescents

Depression: unpleasure to do something
Depression: unpleasure to do something | ©: kids.4pictures - Fotolia

"Today, growing up in Germany is no longer what it was used to be.” On a first glance, such a sentence seems backward. After all, even decades ago children had to tackle their own problems

Yet, in recent times, things look a little differently. It seems the carefree childhood of our kids is getting shorter and shorter. Today’s children have to take on responsibility and have tasks, which only a few years ago were reserved for older children or even adults. In this context, we often hear the expression “little adults”, which is indeed not all that wrong. On the other hand, however, today’s children are growing up much more sheltered. Nearly every thinkable desire is fulfilled by their parents. Parenting at times seems to have reduced to “managing” the kids.

How the pieces fit together? And what problems might arise from such ambivalent situations?

The comfort many children come to enjoy these days does come with a price: much higher expectations are being placed on them. Academic achievements, for example, are on the rise. In high- and secondary school this trend continues, right through to graduation, where top marks are always expected. After all, without a university degree you won’t get far. Particularly, if people desire to climb up the income strata. Which parent would not want that for their children?

This, however, poses a problem: If everyone strives for the same level of their education, the pressure and competition continually increases. In the best case scenario, only a top few are able to realize their dreams, goals and desires. But it does not stop there. Children and young people are also expected to deliver high performances in their hobbies as well. Whether it is the football club or the music school: Children learn early in life, that only those who consistently achieve top performances will have a chance to realize their dreams and goals in life.

However, the downside of this competitive behaviour is rarely considered. In the face of this expected achievements children and young people have to muster up a great deal of discipline to avoid being crushed by the system. This is one reason why parents often start already at an early age to teach their children discipline and motivation. However, not every child survives this procedure without getting harmed. Piece by piece, a part of their carefree childhood is taken away from them. In some cases, it gets worse. Children and young people may show symptoms of burnout, depression and anxiety disorders. Their treatment can be lengthy and difficult. When worst comes to worst, those symptoms are ignored and it is drummed into the child, if you ever want to get somewhere in life, you never ever show your weaknesses. This starts a vicious circle which makes matters only worse. Many such cases end in a fatality as the increasing rate of suicided in children and young people suggests.

By now many experts demand, “Give the child time to be a child”. However, many parents feel trapped within the mill wheels of meritocracy, feeling there is just no escape. After all, they only want what is best for their child. We can only hope that they recognize in time that the line between encouragement and excessive demands is only a small one. That the parents acknowledge this fine line before it is too late.

Social behaviour: Factors influencing the social network

No teacher, social worker and the many volunteer youth worker not even to speak of, none of them had years of sound psychological training or knowledge under their belts. Therefore, many behaviours of children and young people are not understood or classified correctly. (If at all) Seen in this light, it is no longer surprising, that some responses to children and young people are inapt. Nevertheless, at this point we would like to offer a little help learning to understand children and youth more correctly. If we succeed, and we understand why the child or adolescent behaves the way they do, we start to see those kids with different eyes. We are creating relationships. Our responses are appropriate and helpful to the children or young people. In some of their problems, we will even discover ourselves. Everyone who recognizes and understands himself, ultimately, will understand others. He will develop empathy.


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