Switch off and tune in

Teens aren't speaking up when they need help.

New research reveals young people aren’t speaking up when they’re worried.

Act for Kids CEO Katrina Lines is encouraging adults to take simple steps to ‘Get Comfy Switching on by Switching off’ for the kids in their lives.

Dr Lines said switching on by stopping what you were doing – including putting your device down – could empower a child well into adulthood.

More than 300 young people, aged 14 to 17, told the charity what concerned them most.

Two in five (40 percent) don’t talk to anyone when they’re feeling worried, and only a third (36 percent) said their close adult always listened to them.

Two-thirds said they worried about their appearance, and 64 percent worried about school.

Dr Lines said these figures showed the importance of adults checking in with children and having valuable and meaningful conversations.

“If a child is concerned about something in their life but they don’t share those concerns with anyone, it can lead to a number of challenges, including stress, anxiety, and a lack of self-confidence,” she said.

“It can also negatively affect aspects of their everyday life, such as school, friendships, and family relationships.”

One young person said: “I have my days that I feel confident but a lot of the time I am just pretending. I don’t feel confident in my own skin at all and wish I could just click my fingers and change anything I wanted.”

Another respondent said their biggest concern was, “My looks and how I look during school and if anyone really likes me.”

Sebastrian Karamihas, 18, is in Year 12 and said: “Getting good grades and setting myself up for the future is what worries me the most.”

The study found 35 percent of young people wanted to spend one to two hours a day with their close adult.

“This shows young people are really craving quality one-on-one time with their close adult,” Dr Lines said.

“There is a real need to create space and dedicate, where possible, time for them in our busy schedules.”

Phoebe Karamihas, 15, said she wanted to spend “an hour a day with my close adult”.

“I think it would help if the parents had a break off work and spent quality time with their kids,” she said.

“Even just 10 minutes each day of quality time would be really good.”

Dr Lines said this could look like asking open-ended questions about their day, or reminding them that you’re there to just listen.

“The research shows there is a genuine need for adults to simply listen rather than tell a child or young person what to do all the time,” she said.

She encouraged parents and carers to take advantage of incidental one-on-one moments.

“Whether it be driving home from school in the car, or inviting them to help you make dinner, and using those everyday opportunities to ask deeper open-ended questions about what’s going on for them in their life, their friendships, or schooling,” she said.

“You may be surprised to learn that they are, in fact, worried about something.”

Act for Kids is an Australian charity providing therapy and support services to children and families who have experienced or are at risk of trauma.

Visit www.actforkids.com.au/get-comfy for more.

Tips for adults

– Close all the tabs in your brain. Try to avoid getting distracted by your own thoughts so you can really focus on the conversation.

– Put down your phone, turn off the TV, or remove other distractions that make it difficult for you to tune in to them. Take time to stop and be with them.

– Get close. Move to the same room or be near them.

– If you can’t focus on them right away, let them know you will give them your attention as soon as you can.

Tips for children and young people

– Small talk is easier than big talk, so start simple.

– Ask your close adult about their day or tell them something easy about yours. Practice talking with them every day, so you feel more confident sharing information with them when it really matters.

– Before you start a big talk, figure out what you actually really need to talk about. Write down what you need to talk about and what you want to say, or practice by yourself. This will help you be clear about what you want to say during an important conversation.