A new report from the makers of iconic Australian breakfast brand Weet-Bix has revealed that declining self-esteem is the most significant mental well-being issue facing Australian kids. One in five students reported negative self-esteem as they enter high school.
As a new school year begins in Australia, it’s a stark reminder of the need to promote mental and emotional well-being alongside physical health to support Australian kids in reaching their potential and building resilience after two years of pandemic-related turbulence.
Experts say children’s self-belief was already in decline due to a range of other influences, however. Data uncovered by Forge Wellbeing in one of the most significant studies of its kind and released as part of the Weet-Bix Feed Their Belief Report found a significant decline of 35 percent in self-esteem, optimism, competence, and positive emotions between kindergarten and Grade 12.
Pulling on survey responses from more than 27,000 students, the report explores the current mindset among Australian children as they progress through school across eight key well-being domains: positive emotions, meaning, optimism, positive relationships, competence, engagement, self-esteem, and social contribution.
High school students averaged a lower rating in seven out of eight domains compared to primary school students, with the report revealing a self-belief crisis, with only 50 percent of students in Grade 12 feeling optimistic compared to 70 percent of students in Grade 7 and 91 percent of kids at kindergarten.
Dave Gower, founder of Forge Wellbeing and a father of three, said, “Our data provides an unparalleled insight into the well-being of [Australian] kids. However, it sadly shows that a child’s mindset declines in positivity as they progress through their school years.
“By sharing these insights in the Weet-Bix Feed Their Belief Report, we’re hoping to help parents and caregivers understand the factors that impact their child’s ability to believe in themselves, feel positive about the world around them, and [be] ready to face the challenges life will inevitably throw their way,” he said.
Facing a Tough World
Parenting expert and speaker, author, and researcher Justin Coulson said, “The world can be really unkind to our kids. Even before the ongoing pandemic, today’s youth face significant challenges to their self-belief. From social media and pop culture to academic and societal pressures and even global issues like climate change. Plus, they’re going through all the physical and neurological development that is par for the course of growing up.
“As a dad to six of my own children, I know how challenging it can be for kids as they progress through their teenage years. I’ve seen how self-belief can diminish and take a child’s potential with it. But we can support our children with the insights in the Weet-Bix Feed Their Belief Report, demonstrating they value their relationship with us and that they benefit from our guidance in developing identity, self-esteem, optimism, and resilience.”
Coulson provides six top tips to guide parents and caregivers in helping feed belief in Australian kids, including inspiring self-esteem, sparking positive emotions, and fueling engagement. He also mentioned maintaining optimism, encouraging and demonstrating positive relationships, and fostering healthy bodies and healthy minds.
Jessica Manihera, a mother of three and senior leader at the Sanitarium Health Food Company, explained that “kids enter this world with limitless belief, an incredible superpower that fuels optimism, creativity, curiosity, and courage.” She added, “Naturally, as we learn more about ourselves and the world around us, our dreams can change or falter. But what our Weet-Bix Feed Their Belief Report reveals is that self-belief is compromised too early in life by an increasing number of influences, and that is limiting the potential of the next generation to thrive.”
Weet-Bix, a wholegrain breakfast cereal produced at the Adventist-managed Sanitarium Health Food Company, is well known for physical activity initiatives like the Weet-Bix Kids TRYathlon. It is also known for its support of breakfast club programs that provide essential nutrition to start the school day and for giving generations of Aussie kids inspiring role models to look up to.
“As the new school year begins, we hope the insights and tips in this report provide parents and caregivers with ideas on how to help their child navigate this ever-changing world, realize their potential, and turn those mini dreams of today into the mighty moments of tomorrow,” Manihera said.