New research on childhood anxieties has found four out of five children have worries about the future, which can range from concerns about money, bushfires and climate change to not having friends.
Some of the common concerns from young Australians about the future included, not getting a job, the cost of living, learning and education, plastic waste, climate change, droughts, bushfires, their family’s health and wellbeing and making friends.
The national online survey of 1000-plus children aged from five to 15 was commissioned by Mastercard, and found young people were increasingly anxious about the state of not just their own health and wellbeing, but that of their families' and the planet.
Dr Grant Blashki, the lead clinical advisor at Beyond Blue and Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne, said these results confirmed the most recent 2019 findings of Mission Australia's annual youth survey of 25,126 15 to 19-year-olds.
That survey found the environment soared from eighth place in 2018 to second place in 2019 in the list of the issues young people say are the most important issues in Australia – more than tripling in significance since last year.
"The cause for concern about the environment leapt from 9 per cent to 34 per cent - kids are very aware of environmental and climate issues, even before this summer of bushfires and smoke-filled holidays," he said.
"Global worries can be a perfect focus for people with generalised anxiety conditions who can sometimes think they mean the end of the world, but there is a lot parents can do to allay their children's fears and you need to use your judgement as a parent depending on the child's age and temperament as to what you tell them," he warned.
"It is up to parents to ensure a sense of safety and security for children when they think about the future... it is up to us to give children a sense of hope," he said.
This is particularly important this summer of large scale disasters, deaths of people and wildlife, and a bleak overall picture of the future he said.
"We need to give them 'active hope' that they may see problems in the future but they can also be a part of the solution.
"Don't ever underestimate the capacity of young people to find solutions to the world's problems," Dr Blashki said.
On Friday Beyond Blue chair former Prime Minister Julia Gillard welcomed the Commonwealth’s commitment of $8 million towards supporting mental health in early learning services and schools affected by bushfire.
The funding package allows Beyond Blue to provide additional support to educators and staff working in early learning services and schools affected by the bushfire crisis.
“We will target this funding to help schools and early learning services in bushfire affected areas to recover and support their children, families and communities,” Ms Gillard said.
“Children and young people can be particularly vulnerable to the emotional impact of disasters and they look to the adults around them for reassurance and protection.
“Our schools and early learning services will be at the heart of community-led recovery. They provide children and young people with familiar routines and these can be particularly useful in providing a sense of stability in hard times.
“While parents and families will be the main source of support for many students, learning environments where children and young people are helped to manage distress are a critical part of the recovery process,” she said.
In light of the results of the survey sponsored by Mastercard, the company put out a nationwide search for budding scientists and entrepreneurs to challenge them to come up with practical ideas about how to reduce young people's anxieties.
The best three ideas will be announced on Monday, and they will go on pitch their idea to a panel of experts at Mastercard’s tech hub at the Australian Open this week in Melbourne.
Some of the solutions to ease children's woes ranged from helping people in need to improving education in outback Australia.
Twelve-year-old Breakfast Point boy Nikolas' innovative idea is Bubbles the helping hand, a soft toy that detect and assists anxiety in children. Isabel, 7, from Port Melbourne, suggested an app that could locate and feed the homeless. Celia, a 12-year-old from Perth, suggested a holographic education program, HoloTech, that will enhance education in remote and rural communities.