Unicef published a report in September 2020 which validates the idea that living in a “rich” or “developed” country is not a guarantee of happiness. The report’s findings show that the level of children’s dissatisfaction in several wealthy countries, such as France, is high, despite positive rates of physical and mental health. According to this report, the Netherlands is a successful model in terms of child well-being. Here we present the reasons for this success.
The Netherlands scores above average in child welfare
The children of the Netherlands are said to be among the happiest in the world. What is their formula? Anita Cleare, author of “The Working Parent’s Survival Guide,” told CNBC that it was important to understand the role of socio-economic factors in children’s happiness. To begin with, this country, like other rich countries, provides for the needs related to physical health, thanks to the state infrastructures provided for this purpose. However, what makes the difference with other countries is the socio-cultural way of approaching parenthood. An assertive parenting style, which sets “clear boundaries with a lot of love and warmth has always been correlated with positive outcomes for children,” explains the specialist. In this same line, the Dutch have a reputation for being able to talk about subjects which might be considered more uncomfortable or shameful in other countries. Thus, the “shame of speaking” present in certain cultures and family environments, would be a factor which would be detrimental to the well-being of children, and it is not not very developed in the Netherlands.
The Dutch have a reputation for being academically very inclusive, valuing diversity, especially when it comes to multiple abilities, and that translates into the numbers. The Unicef study showed that Dutch 15-year-olds had a strong sense of belonging to school, and that their life satisfaction was higher than in any of the other countries studied. According to Anita Cleare, this is explained by this type of inclusive approach, also present in parenthood. 81% of Dutch 15-year-olds believe they can make friends easily, which was one of the highest rates among the 41 countries included in the article. “I think growing up in a culture where everyone’s unique gifts are celebrated and where kids feel like they can be whoever they want to be, and aren’t judged, is likely to make friendships more positive. This will increase children’s happiness levels ”explains the expert in positive parenting, adding that this is all the more important nowadays, because the pressure that children are under now can increase on social networks.
Encourage a passion for learning and volunteering
Amanda Gummer, founder of the skills development organization Good Play Guide, said that in the Netherlands, instead of focusing on academic success, the school is working on developing skills. a passion for learning. Parents, on the other hand, should remember that “exam results are not the ultimate solution”, and should focus on stimulating their child’s curiosity. In Norway, which came in third place in Unicef’s list of happiest children, there was a “culture of unity”, that is to say a culture which values commitment to the community: ” Helping others is great for your mental health, so think about ways your whole family can contribute to the community, ”she said, suggesting volunteering as a good mental health practice.