What is wellbeing for kids?
Children's wellbeing is defined in The Oxford English Dictionary as “the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy”. While the explanation sounds simple, Wellbeing is all-encompassing, including good physical and mental health, life satisfaction, a sense of meaning or purpose, and having the resilience to be able to manage stress. As such, it is important for parents, carers, and those who work with kids, to foster positive wellbeing in our children from an early age. But, with so many different elements playing a role in children's wellbeing, where do we start?
How can we support kids to achieve wellbeing?
The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a set of evidence-based public mental health messages aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population. Developed by the New Economics Foundation, the ways to wellbeing include: connect, be active, take notice, learn and give.
Connect: As humans, we have a fundamental human need to feel close to and valued by others. Developing positive social relationships with others is very important for children's wellbeing. One of the simplest ways we can do this as parents is to stop what we’re doing and listen. Asking questions about their days, or playing a “what I love about you” game is a great way to connect, too. As well as reinforcing our own connectuon with our children, encouraging them to spend time with friends and family, or join in with group activities with peers, can also be great for wellbeing.
Be active: As we’ve explored in other blogs, physical activity is a vital part of staying healthy in both mind and body, especially for children. In fact, regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of anxiety and depression for all ages. While getting involved in sporting activities is a great way to boost their physical fitness, evidence shows that it doesn't need to be an intense activity to provide a benefit - just getting out and about doing an activity that they love can help.
Take notice: Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present can enhance wellbeing. Our article on Mindfulness has some great tips about how to live in the moment, including simply stopping what you’re doing and observing what is happening - including thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Research shows that just naming our emotions can have a calming effect.
Learn: Learning new things or taking part in structured activities can enhance self-esteem in our young people. It also encourages social interaction and encourages them to keep active - both of which are great for boosting wellbeing.
Give: Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health and wellbeing by reducing stress and improving our mood. While adults can get involved with volunteering, fundraising or helping friends and family, children may need a hand to come up with ideas. This could be supporting younger or less able children in school or in their after-school activities and clubs, sharing their toys/snacks, or simply just giving someone a smile or using kind words.
Our other top tips for boosting wellbeing in kids
While the five ways to wellbeing are a well-respected and well-known way to boost wellbeing, we think there are a few extras that can really help!
Sleep: If you’re currently parenting a small child, I can almost feel you rolling your eyes as you read this. Yes, sleep can be elusive in the early years. But, at the very least, the sleep-starved amongst you will agree with me on one thing - you can never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep! Ensuring your child gets enough sleep each night is an important part of maintaining good mental and physical wellbeing. Help them to unwind at bedtime by creating a calming routine - this could mean switching off screens, reading, and warm baths, all of which are a great time to reconnect with your child and chat to them about their day.
Get outdoors: Evidence shows that time spent in nature is good for our health and wellbeing. For kids, one of the best ways of getting them to reconnect with the outdoors, is to use the natural environment as a relaxing and stimulating environment where they can be creative, playful, and inspired to use their imaginations. Outdoor play can be anything as simple as listening to sounds and collecting leaves, to tree climbing, outdoor workouts or, for the more adventurous, barefoot walking or mud painting! If work commitments mean that making time for the outdoors is hard to fit into your schedule, then enrolling the kids in Forest School could be a great way to get them out when you’re in!
Build resilience: Resilient children can recover from setbacks rather than dwelling on them - which is key to wellbeing. It’s not something that kids either have or don’t have, but a skill that they develop as they grow. According to Katie Hurley, author of The Happy Kid Handbook, the key to boosting resilience in kids is to build a strong emotional connection, promote healthy risk-taking, resist the urge to fix any issues and support kids to come up with their own solution, teach problem-solving skills, to label and talk about emotions, to embrace mistakes and to model resilience. Visit https://www.psycom.net for more details.
Where can I find resources to support children’s wellbeing?
Partnership for Children is a UK registered charity that helps children to be mentally and emotionally healthy - they have some great free wellbeing activities.
Twinkl has a wide range of resources available for schools, parents and kids alike - check out their wellbeing hub.
A website called Teaching Packs has a number of simple idea for promoting wellbeing in kids.