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Education, Health

Guest blog: Unhappy kids

By Heather Smith

Heather Smith is an ex-nanny. Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs and websites. She also provides various information for become a nanny, to nannies and families across the USA and Canada. She can be contacted at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.

A recent report stated that one out of every ten children in the UK is unhappy. Why is that? What’s gone wrong? More importantly, the study discovered that one thing had the biggest impact on children’s happiness: family. Relationships made children happy or unhappy, which is something that a lot of people frequently overlook.

The Children’s Society said the study showed that “at any one time, one in 11 (9%) eight- to-15-year-olds had low levels of subjective well-being”. The study also found that unhappiness increased radically with age, the number of those saying they felt “low” doubling from the age of 10 (7%) to the age of 15 (14%). Families that moved frequently or were disrupted in some way had higher rates of unhappy children.

Not only do strong family relationships affect a child’s happiness, material wealth does appear to affect it also, a conclusion that echoes a recent Unicef report that claimed that children in the UK were caught in a “materialistic trap”. Unicef said that children as young as eight were “aware of the financial issues their families face”. It added: “Children who do not have clothes to ‘fit in’ with peers are more than three times likely to have low well-being than those that do. Around a quarter say they often worry about the way they look. Unhappiness with appearance increases with age and is greater among girls.”

School is also a troublesome spot for many children. According to the report one in ten children are unhappy about their relationships with teachers, and one in six are unhappy about the amount they feel they are being listened to at school.

The archbishop of York, John Sentamu, pronounced the unearthing of these unhappy children as “a wake-up call to us all”. He writes: “An analysis of the subjective well-being of children is not simply a question of how well our children are doing, but an acid test for our society.”

Elaine Hindal, Director of the Campaign for Childhood at the Children’s Society, said: “We are calling for a radical new approach to childhood, placing their wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. Our research has exposed that how children feel really matters. We know that, right now, half a million children are unhappy. We have discovered the key reasons for this unhappiness and what we can do to make it better. We want our country to be the best place for our children to grow up. Yet unless we act now we risk becoming one of the worst and creating a lost future generation.”

Lord Layard, a leading economist, said: “This important research reveals the true picture of children’s wellbeing in the UK today. The Children’s Society has used its extensive research and deep experience in this area to help us view childhood in a fresh and significant way. Everybody involved in shaping children’s lives should sit up and take note of this report.”

The Children’s Society published The Good Childhood Report 2012 on January 12.

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