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What matters most to children’s well-being? Their views on what makes a happy life

By October 12, 2020National News

The main points in this report from the Office for National Statistics are:

Feeling loved and having positive, supportive relationships, particularly with friends and family, including having someone to talk to and rely on were consistently stated as a top priority for children to have a happy life – “[Love means] people who care about you, family and friends, because if you’re upset then they’ll be there for you”.

Children described the importance of feeling safe as an essential element of their happiness including: safe places to hang out and meet with friends and a sense of safety at home, in their neighbourhoods, at school and online; however, generally focus group participants felt that their local areas lacked safe places and activities for children – “There needs to be somewhere to relax and be able to unwind”.

Children said being able to be themselves and express themselves without being judged by others was crucial to their mental health and well-being – “Like some 12-year-olds will be getting judged and that will make them change into someone they don’t want to be when they’re older”.

As a place where many children spend a lot of their waking hours, schools were described as having an important impact on children’s well-being, particularly in reference to the physical buildings; environment and culture of the school; teachers and other staff; the learning content and curriculum; and opportunities for extra-curricular activities – “They had to rebuild our science labs because they were falling apart very slowly. The chair broke on me and I fell on the floor”.

Although children and young people may not deal with finances directly, they acknowledged the importance of family finances in meeting basic needs and fostering a sense of social inclusion, while stress around family finances could impact the mental health of everyone in the household; however, money was not equated with happiness – “Finance is really stressful, and it can stress the family out and then that can have an effect on the child”.

In discussing their future happiness and well-being, the main areas raised included living in a country at peace and where children’s needs are considered by those in positions of power; empowering children to express themselves and have a say in decisions that affect their lives; and preservation of the environment and addressing climate change – “They should listen to children because sometimes the children are right”.

For more information go to the ONS website

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