Wellbeing begins with we. Good relationships are the building blocks on which flourishing futures are built, for our children, our workplaces and our communities.
Human beings are primed to connect with each other – it is necessary for our survival. The way parents and carers bond with and respond to their new-born makes all the difference to that child’s development. These positive relationships set a course for future wellbeing. You only have to look at what happens to those abandoned in orphanages to realise the devastating impact on the developing brain when warm and responsive nurturing is absent.
Positive connection continues throughout life to be a major factor in to our ability to flourish – both as individuals and within communities.
This foundation is often neglected as we strive to achieve success for our children and ourselves. In our society we are increasingly taught that it is the individual who matters most. While personal freedoms and self-determination are important for a fulfilling life, this needs to be balanced with responsibility, care and compassion. We are all bound with the same thread of humanity – when this is broken we are all affected. Selfishness, greed and narcissism ultimately undermine the authentic wellbeing of everyone. Generosity, altruism and other pro-social behaviours are beneficial for all. Countries with the smallest gap between the haves and have-nots have the highest levels of wellbeing. Equity, fairness and positive relationships matter for individuals and society as a whole.
If the next generation is to improve outcomes in terms of mental health and wellbeing, resilience, healthy relationships, community safety and ethical responsibility, then education needs to be about more than acquiring factual knowledge and privileging narrow academic success or individual achievement.
There is learning to know and learning to do; there is also learning to be and learning to live together. These four pillars were identified by UNESCO as a framework for integrated and holistic education for the 21st century. We need a society where people function well in ways that enable them to flourish in all aspects of their interconnected lives, whether they become a financier, shopkeeper, truck-driver or teacher. Today’s students are also the parents of the next generation, as well as the consumers or producers of wealth.
Where schools have wellbeing as core business they are willing to explore how young people can become the best they can be in all aspects of their development. All of our young people need social and emotional competencies, they all need to develop values that go beyond what is good for me, they all need to be successfully engaged in learning and they all need to have a voice and be able to contribute.
Aim to grow great kids – not just those who can pass exams or do as they are told – but those who can take initiative, care for each other and make a positive difference to the future of all members of our society.
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