Children in the Netherlands are among the happiest in the world, research has suggested, and experts say there may be several reasons why this is so.
A UNICEF report published last year found that children in the Netherlands had the highest sense of well-being. The UN Children’s Bureau analyzed data from 41 high-income countries and ranked the countries according to how they scored on children’s mental well-being, physical health and the development of both academic and social skills.
The Netherlands were found to be ranked highest in the league table of the three well-being results, followed by Denmark and Norway respectively.
Chile, Bulgaria and the United States were at the bottom of the table.
Separately, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development 2020 Better Life Index showed that the Netherlands was above average in a number of areas, including income, education, housing and health status.
Anita Cleare, author of “The Working Parent’s Survival Guide”, told CNBC by telephone that it was important to understand the role of socio-economic factors in influencing children’s happiness. She explained that if a child has certain needs met, which is more likely in a prosperous country, there is a greater chance of achieving happiness.
Cleare sa an assertive parenting style, which sets “clear boundaries with lots of love and warmth … has consistently been shown to correlate with positive outcomes for children.”
In addition, Cleare said that shame can be really harmful to children, and that the Dutch have a reputation for being open to talking about topics that may be considered more uncomfortable to discuss in other countries.
The UNICEF report also highlighted that not all children living in rich countries have a good childhood.
“Even countries with good social, economic and environmental conditions are far from meeting the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” UNICEF said in the report.
To combat these shortcomings, UNICEF called on high-income countries to consult children on how to improve their lives and to integrate policies to increase their well-being. UNICEF also recommended that countries step up their efforts to meet sustainable development goals, such as reducing poverty and improving access to childcare.
Cleare said the Dutch had a reputation for “valuing diversity [and] be very inclusive. ”
This type of approach to parenting was important, she said, given how much pressure children now face both academically and socially, when it comes to social media.
“So I think growing up in a culture where everyone’s unique gifts are celebrated, and children feel that they can be who they want to be, and they are not judged, is likely to make the friendship more positive, the playground culture more positive., And will to help children’s happiness levels, “she said.
UNICEF research showed that 81% of teenagers in the Netherlands at the age of 15 felt that they could easily make friends, which was one of the highest figures among the 41 countries included in the magazine. It also showed that for 15-year-olds in the country who had a high sense of belonging to the school, the satisfaction with life turned out to be greatest.
Amanda Gummer, founder of the skills development organization Good Play Guide, told CNBC via email that schooling is “non-competitive” in the Netherlands and that instead it focuses on developing a passion for learning.
She urged parents to remember that “test results are not the best and final” and that they should try to focus on promote their child’s curiosity.
Gummer said there were also lessons to be learned from other countries that were considered exemplary in terms of child welfare.
For example, in Norway, which came third on UNICEF’s list, Gummer said there was a “community culture”.
“Helping others is good for your mental health, so think about how your whole family can contribute to society,” she said, suggesting that volunteering was a way to promote this sense of belonging.
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