Eight-year-olds in England are less happy than those in Estonia, Poland and Turkey, a recent survey suggests, with body image and school identified as areas they are particularly troubled by.
England ranked 13th out of 16 countries when it came to children’s life satisfaction, according to the international survey. Only South Korea, Nepal and Ethiopia fared worse overall.
Looking at issues around how young people see themselves, children in England came in the bottom five when asked about their appearance and body.
Coordinated in England by York’s Social Policy Research Unit, the study asked children to rate how they felt about key aspects of their lives. Questions touched on family and home life, friendships, money and possessions, school life, local area, time use, personal well-being, views on children’s rights, and overall happiness.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said:
“All children have the right to be taught in a happy, safe and supportive environment, where they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Bullying of any kind is unacceptable and all schools must have measures in place to tackle it. That is why we are providing more than £7m to help schools tackle bullying head on.We are also promoting greater use of counselling in schools, improving teaching about mental health, and supporting joint working between mental health services and schools. This will ensure that children can thrive both inside and out the classroom.”
But what can we do, as parents or carers, to help children be happier and more confident at home? Relax Kids founder, Marneta Viegas, has been paving the way to calmer, more confident kids since 2000 and is the leading expert in children's mindfulness and relaxation. She produces relaxation CDs, classes and books for anxiety, anger management, sleeping problems and self-esteem and has over 3,400 coaches all over the world using the Relax Kids approach to teach children to be happy.
Today, Marneta is giving us her top five ways to help your children relax, have fun and be happy:
1. Make a worry doll
Children can sometimes spend a lot of time worrying. Especially if there have been changes in their home or school life. In Guatemala, children talk to their dolls and tell them their worries. They then put their dolls under their pillows at night and when they wake up, all their worries have gone and the dolls have disappeared too - like when the tooth fairy comes! Why not make our own worry dolls with your children? Here's how:
1. Get an old wooden peg or stick. you could use a twig from the garden or one you found when walking
2. Draw a face on it. Make it look however you want
3. Glue a smaller stick across the peg to make it's arms
4. Wrap some wool around it's arms and body, twisting it around lots of times and then tie it in a knot, so your doll has a nice woolly jumper on!
Affirmation: "I am worry-free. I am worry-free."
2. Write a family prayer
This is not a religious kind of prayer but more of a family affirmation. An affirmation is the act of affirming positive messages and overcoming self-sabotaging, negative thoughts. It can be read first thing in the morning or last thing at night and you can do it as a family or silently in your mind. Here is an example:
Today, I give thanks for my amazing body.
I give thanks for my health.
I give thanks for my food.
I give thanks for my home for making me feel safe.
I give thanks to my family for loving me and making me feel special.
I give thanks for my friends and all the fun we have.
I give thanks to nature for giving me everything I need.
I give thanks for my life.
I am so lucky.
Affirmation: "I am lucky. I am lucky."
3. Make mood stones
Collect stones, ones found together on walks or at the beach are best of all. Paint them different colours and decorate them with things like glitter pens. Then think of positive words such as Happy, Laugh, Fun and Kindness and write a different one on each stone.
Once dry, put the stones in a bowl or vase in the middle of the table. When your children are sad or angry ask them to pick a stone out of the mood bowl/vase and think about that feeling. They can even take that stone with them to keep that feeling all day.
"I really enjoyed decorating my mood stones. I look forward to choosing one every day."
Julia, 8 years.
Affirmation: "I have everything I need. I have everything I need."
4. Help children cope with homework
When we are relaxed, we concentrate better. The same goes for children. If your child seems stressed our and annoyed with their homework try these following tips to help:
1. Sit down and ask your children what homework they have on; a trouble shared is a trouble halved
2. Have some relaxation time before homework starts. Why not make your favourite drink and have a snack to fuel-up before the work begins? Or maybe watch a funny program to release tension
3. Put essential oils on tissues where your child is working. The smells open up the nose and helps them to breathe properly thus helping them to feel calm and focused
4. Make sure they take time away from their desk to stretch out. Whilst sitting, ask them to put their feet on the ground and fall forward like a rag doll in their chair. This will stretch out their backs
5. Have a nice treat waiting for them when they are finished.
Affirmation: "I concentrate well. I concentrate well."
5. How to stay happy
Did you know that when you have happy thoughts your body sends positive feelings all around your body? It lifts you up and changes your whole attitude and makes you feel brilliant. Try teaching your children these go-to happy methods for when they are in need:
- Friends - think about all the good things about your friends. Make a long list and tell them what you like about them. You will make them so happy
- Love Letters - write yourself or someone you care about a nice letter telling them all the things that you love about them
- Bounce - when you feel sad,just bounce on your heels, shake your shoulders and roll your head to one side and then the other
- Clean your room - This si going to sound silly because cleaning is so boring, but you will make your mum happy if you do it! And also it makes you feel proud and like you have achieved something
when you have finished and it looks nice
Affirmation: "I am joyful. I am joyful."
BONUS TIME! If you're on a mission to happiness, download Relax Kids FREE Happiness Pack today!
You can find all these tips plus more in Marneta's bestseller:
Relax Kids: How to be Happy
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