Letter: Stress can make children suffer

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article "Stress and the Nineties child" (30 August), though I think well intentioned, does a disservice to children, parents, and teachers.

Of course children have to face life as it is, with its fears and its joys, its successes and its disappointments, its excitements and its doldrums, and to this end adults modify the impact of the world on the child so that the child can handle "doses of reality" appropriate to their age, maturity and ability. Mastering challenges does strengthen growth and development.

However there is a difference between facing stress, however uncomfortable, and "suffering from stress". Suffering from stress implies that the individual is no longer able to manage his or her situation and is producing symptoms which are inhibiting, self-defeating or socially disruptive. This is as true for adults as for children, and they can exhibit absenteeism, recourse to drugs and alcohol, promiscuity, physical illness, and neurosis.

However as a past chair of the Child Guidance Training Centre my concern remains for the present generation of children, who have to face a world where "there is no such thing as society"; there is a job shortage; unemployment is concealed by sleights of hand proffering further "education"; where gross self-interest appears to override any understanding of a fabric of society which might have some equitable solutions to aspirations, or even resolutions of conflict.

Dr MARCUS JOHNS

London SW12

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