Most NL kids very happy, even in Covid crisis
Most children in the Netherlands are very happy, even during the coronavirus pandemic and its accompanying lockdowns. Though not all children are that lucky. Kids living with problems at home and kids living in closed institutions give their lives significantly lower scores than their carefree counterparts, Children's Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer found in a survey carried out among nearly 2 thousand kids between the ages of 8 and 18.
Kids growing up with no major problems at home on average scored their lives an 8.3. Children with one major problem at home scored their lives a 7.2, ranging from 7.9 on average for kids with a sick parent to 6.6 for kids facing domestic violence. Children living in closed institutions scored their lives a 5.6 on average.
"The fact that most children stay standing in such a crisis situation and are so satisfied with their lives, says something about their resilience and that of their environment," Kalverboer said. "You can take that as a compliment, although we should not underestimate that a lot is being asked of happy children."
"At the same time, it is shocking that children who are in a rotten situation are much more affected by the corona measures than children who are doing well in their lives," she added. "Corona reinforces the negative sides of their lives." For children in a domestic violence situation, for example, it is a lot less fun being home 24/7 than for kids in a happy home. This can affect their development.
The Children's Ombudsman therefore called on the government to respond better on this point during the next crisis. "These children must be able to leave [their house]. School can play a role in this, but family and friends must also be able to get children out of a crisis situation where they are confronted with problems 24 hours a day."
Intervention is also needed at closed youth institutions. The low score kids in these institutions gave their lives can be partly explained by the fact that they are struggling with major problems and don't grow up in freedom. But the lack of opportunities does not make their lives better, especially during lockdown when they couldn't get visitors and their daily activities were scaled down significantly, Kalverboer said.
The Ombudsman called on the institutions, the Ministry of Justice and Security and the Ministry of Public Health to improve the quality of these institutions. She suggested giving the children there more help, offering them appropriate treatment, and connecting them with education that best suits their needs and can offer them perspective.
"Children who can handle HAVO or VWO also end up in closed institutions. Yet it is almost impossible for them to follow education at that level. We really fall short here. It is difficult enough for children from a closed institution to reconnect with daily life. Let us at least make sure that their education is optimally suited to their wishes and level."