Children’s Happiness Is Declining
According to the 2022 ‘Good Childhood’ report published by the Children’s Society in the UK, there is a continuing decline in children’s well-being. The report shows that 1 in 16 children are unhappy with their lives, and that 1 in 8 children are unhappy at school. There are all sorts of social, environmental, biological and behavioral factors that contribute to unhappiness in children. According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have a long-lasting negative effect on children’s mental and physical health. A few examples of ACEs include experiencing violence or neglect, unstable home environments, being exposed to substance abuse and having a parent with mental health issues.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to creating a happy and healthy child, there are lots of things that parents and other carers can do to give children the best chance of long-term mental and physical well-being. If you want to further your education on child development, behavior & mental health, check out this useful online course.
Encourage Outdoor Play
There are all sorts of benefits of children playing outside. According to Danae Lund PhD, LP writing on the topic for Sanford Health in 2018, playing outside improves children’s fitness, boosts their motor skills, improves their cognitive and social development, strengthens their immune system, increases their senses and overall boosts their mood. A study by Phoebe R. Bentley also shows that scents associated with nature like cut grass, roses and herbs can have a positive effect on a person’s overall well-being. Furthermore, a study published in 2017 in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that children who increased their time playing outside increased their empathy, engagement, and self-control, which are all important social skills. With all of these benefits, make outdoor play a daily habit – even if the weather isn’t perfect.
Limit Screen Time
A study published in 2018 in the journal ‘Emotion’ found that children who spent less time on their digital devices and more time doing non-screen-based activities like sports, outdoor play, crafts or homework are happier. This is why it is important that you establish clear screen time limits. If the children in your care have a smartphone or computer, limit their access each day, and make sure that they participate in screen-free family activities, outings and playtime. Make sure to set clear guidelines about how much time they can spend using their devices, and then stick to these guidelines. To prevent your child from getting distracted by their screens, you can get them to put their devices in a cupboard or lock box when they are doing other activities or going to bed. It is also important that you limit your own screen time, so that you can model this behavior and show the benefits of engaging with other activities.
Be a Good Role Model
One of the best ways to raise happy and healthy children is to be a good role model for them. Children learn how to act and react to the world by watching and listening to the people around them. So it is important that teachers, parents and other carers model behaviors that lead to increased mental and physical well-being. Some ideas of behaviors to model include healthy eating, regular exercise, self-care, having a regular sleep schedule, reducing your screen time, being positive about yourself and others, engaging in hobbies, and generally demonstrating respect, kindness and honesty.
Encourage Them to Help Others
A 2010 study published in The Journal of Social Psychology found that people who perform acts of kindness experience a big boost in happiness, while also contributing to their community. There are all sorts of ways you can get children to be more altruistic. You can volunteer together at a local charity, make challenges where you each have to do an ‘act of kindness’ each day and talk about it at dinner, or set aside an amount of your child’s allowance each week to donate to a good cause of their choice.