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8 In 10 Parents Admit Kids' Health Struggles

12 Dec 2022

8 In 10 Parents Say Their Kids Struggle With Physical Or Mental Health Issues
  • 8 out of 10 parents say their children are impacted by at least one physical or mental health related issue
  • More than half (54%) of all parents worry about children’s mental health (up from 50% in 2021)
  • 63% think their kids are more aware than they were of big picture issues like the environment, mental health and gender diversity.

We've released further findings from our fourth annual State of the Nation Parenting Survey, revealing parents’ concerns for their children’s health and futures.

The survey, which we conduct annually with global research company, One Picture, canvassed the views of 1,226 parents, step-parents and guardians of children under 18 from around the country.

The 2022 survey shows that parents worry about their kids' health and wellbeing and whether they are doing a good job as parents.

Mental and physical health takes a hit

The nib survey found that 80% of parents say their children are impacted by at least one physical or mental health concern.

The key health issues troubling parents include sleep (33%), behavioural problems (28%) and viral infections (26%), which have an impact on almost 1 in 3 children. Almost a quarter of all parents who took part in the survey worry that their children are eating properly and exercising enough (24%), and just slightly fewer (23%) say they worry about their children’s mental health, especially children from intermediate school age.

The survey also revealed kids are bouncing back from the challenges of COVID lockdowns and learning to adjust to a “new normal”. Compared to 2021, fewer parents say their children struggle with regulating their emotions (26%, down from 32%).

Our Chief Executive Officer, Rob Hennin, said support exists to help parents who are worried about the health of their children.

“It’s confronting to see parents so concerned,” Mr Hennin said. “But it’s also great to see kids bouncing back after the pandemic, which shows a lot of resilience among our young people.”

More awareness among children

Despite concerns, more than half (59%) of parents who responded to the survey feel equipped to prepare their child for the future. They’re confident they can support their child to learn the physical (62%) and mental skills (61%) they need over their lifetime.

In addition, 27% say they have access to valuable external support such as close and extended family, friends, childcare centres, along with after-school care. However, 14% disagree. Some feel unable to predict what their kids will need in the future; others feel they lack the finances required to support their children, or lack confidence to effectively manage their kids' mental health.

And, not surprisingly, times are changing. More than half of parents surveyed said their kids are more socially aware than they were at their age (63%) on issues like the environment, mental health and gender identity. This was even prevalent in parents of preschool aged children (53%).

Concerns for the future

The cost of living was revealed as parents’ biggest concern for the future, (67%), followed by mental health issues (40%) and climate change (33%).

Wealth inequality (20%), physical health (16%) and prejudice (14%) were the next largest points of worry. One respondent said: “I sometimes worry that they won't have the tools they need to cope with life stresses. Mostly the changing climate and all that it entails.”

The survey also highlights different ways in which uncertainty sits within ethnic groups: 22% of Asian parents named education as their top concern for the future (nearly double the national figure), and nearly a quarter (24%) of Pacific Island parents worry about their child’s future success or financial security (versus 11% for all parents). Asian (24%) and Māori (23%) parents are also more concerned about their children facing prejudice (versus 14% of all parents).

Nathan Wallis, nib’s resident parenting expert, reminds parents about the importance of working in collaboration with their children to find a brighter path ahead.

“It's important to remember that our kids live in a fast-moving world,” Mr Wallis said. “And it may feel scary that it's very different to the one we were raised in, but it is vital to navigate it together.

“The data reiterates that tamariki are tuned in to socio-political issues, so practise open communication and ask them what’s important or concerning in their lives to better understand how you can support them.

“And don’t forget that modelling positive behaviour is a powerful thing. Making proactive lifestyle changes and talking openly about emotions is great role-modelling, so kids can see their parents take health and wellbeing seriously,” he said.

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