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Read exclusive content from L Platers, the latest parenting guide from bestselling author of Being 14 and Ten-ager


"School has become my entire life. It feels as though it is all day until I go to sleep.''

Students in years 11 and 12 are exhausted, stressed, staying up all night studying and worrying themselves to the point of vomiting over exams that will mean nothing in years to come. This number - the ATAR - dictates what they do after year 12 and it has created a cohort, nationwide, that is facing unprecedented anxiety. This stood out to me in researching L Platers.

"The biggest challenge I face is trying to get up and go to school. Every day I find myself struggling and panicking,'' one girl told me.

I sought the advice of 1000 teen girls aged 16, 17 and 18 - and the toll anxiety is causing is real. You can see it in school refusal (where girls will simply refuse to attend), which is skyrocketing. Self-harm is commonplace. And eating disorders - including a new one which is termed 'chew and spit' - have also surfaced strongly during COVID.

Hospital beds for those suffering from eating disorders are full, and families have nowhere to go. The top five calls to Kids Helpline by 16-18-year-old women relate to their mental health, emotional wellbeing, suicide, their relationship with their parents and self-injury. COVID will follow this cohort for a long time.  

"I'm numb, stressed, overwhelmed and tired,'' one said.

"I'm mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted,'' another said.

My takeout is that we need to listen to what our teens are telling us, and change the narrative.

  • L Platers - Madonna King

    To support our girls, we need to understand the pressures this generation is under by listening to what worries them and what they need - and journalist and social commentator Madonna King has done just that.

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