Sunday, September 19, 2010

Master Chef and the Stress on Our Children

The ever-popular television cooking program, Master Chef has now created a Junior Master Chef program which has sparked many questions as to whether putting children in the spotlight like this is such a good idea or whether it is psychologically detrimental to their well-being.

Whilst competition is always good, the associated stress – especially on children - is not good at all.

When children are subjected to stress their bodies react by releasing adrenaline.  This adrenalin, when released frequently or for a prolonged period of time results in different kinds of physical and emotional symptoms.

Physical symptoms may include forms of skin diseases, frequent infections, asthma, fever, sleep disorders, headaches and stomach aches.

Behavioral changes include, irritability, aggression, frustration, boredom and disobeying parental instructions.  Symptoms of sever stress can include isolation tendencies, feeling confused or guilty and lying without reason.

In some cases children who are subjected to extreme stress will suffer what is known as PTSD, (post-traumatic stress disorder).

In the case of Junior Master Chef, the associated stress caused from fame gained, continually being in the spotlight and either failing or winning can have detrimental effects on these children, from low-self esteem, withdrawing from family activities to performing poorly in their academic careers.

Staring in a reality television show would mean that these children have to repress certain feelings.  Their parents would be pushing them to do better and to produce fantastic results.  Failing would mean letting themselves down, their family, their friends, fans and their mentors down. 

The associated guilt, self reprimands and self-loathing can have some serious effects on the child and if expressed continually, will eventually have the child believing these negative self-affirmations.

Fast-forward a few years where in Hollywood, some childhood stars have succumbed to alcohol and drug abuse as a coping mechanism.  This does not mean that all child contestants will go down this path, however as a parent it is better to be informed when it comes to the dangers of childhood stress.

If your child is in a situation that is causing stress, take note of how to alleviate and eliminate this stress.  Provide a supportive and welcoming environment and keep the communication channels open at all times.  If at any time you are concerned about your child’s behavior, react by talking with them and suggesting further counseling if the need arises.

~ Vanessa

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