What are the secrets to making children happy, as new research reveals an alarming decline in well-being?

What are the secrets to making children happy, as new research reveals an alarming decline in well-being?

Since the pandemic, there has been a marked difference in the well-being of our children. Today, more research has been released on the continued deterioration of children’s well-being. More and more children are unhappy at school, and their life in general. But where does this unhappiness come from?

Data analyzed by the Children’s Association indicates that one in eight 10- to 15-year-olds were dissatisfied with school in 2019-20, and six percent were dissatisfied with their lives in general.

Is this just a hangover from the pandemic or is there something else at play here? And what can parents do to help?

Susie Reading is a mother, author, and psychiatrist who specializes in well-being and stress management.

For her, this decline in well-being is “a natural response to the extremes of an epidemic – things have been shaky, our children exposed. They suffer from a whole range of emotions. Parents are under great stress too – and we need a collective restoration.”

“A lot of parents feel they can’t be a therapist for their children, and they shouldn’t be. But they can help instead by sitting with them, with their feelings and letting them express themselves.”

Children may still be struggling for a post-pandemic life (Alamy/PA)

So, what are the steps to maintain the well-being of children?

1. Prioritize rest, sleep and relaxation

We all know rest is important after a long day, but we may not encourage our kids to look for it the right way. We need to focus on a good night’s sleep and strict bedtimes.

“Rest is just as good for us as sleep,” the advocates of reading say, “and instead of pushing for more sleep—which is hard to get—we can prioritize practices of relaxation, deep breathing, and encouragement of mindfulness. Things like looking at and counting clouds, or Lie quietly with your legs up against the wall.

Teaching children the importance of these things and including them in their routine can improve their overall well-being.

2. Encourage open dialogue around the school — and make time for it

It’s hard to get kids to talk about school beyond what happened on a daily basis, but if they tell you they’re unhappy, Reading suggests you “see what additional support is available and communicate openly with their teachers.”

Often, in the experience of reading, the things that worry children “go out before bed, so make time and leave bedtime a place for discussion.”

Make room for your children to participate (Alamy/PA)

3. The power of the environment

Environment means two things from Reading’s point of view, it has to do with both the outdoors and the skin in it.

“Go out with your kids, but also encourage skin care, pampering, and a few health and wellness rituals. Teach them how to take care of themselves. Encourage movement and good nutrition.”

For example, you might suggest “cook together, have a family meal (no screens) and make time for networking.”

4. Allow them space to quit smoking

Life seems pretty busy for people of all ages. “People get tired — we don’t have time for the same number of tasks,” Redding notes.

She says even children feel it. “Ask your children what they really want to do, and give them permission to do things differently if they want to.”

5. Aim to have real pockets

As a parent, you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to give your kids all of your time (or at least any time left, after work and chores).

But Redding explains: “Parents don’t need extended periods of time, just pockets of real existence, where you are right there. Find out what flexible working arrangements are available to you – we’ve proven productivity from home, so keep up your defense.”

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