Most Dutch children are happy. In a large study of 2350 children aged 8 to 18, children scored an average of 7.7. The research also shows a number of worrying developments. Children are losing trust in adults (with the exception of their parents) to solve problems in our society.
They believe that their own behavior or feeling should be improved. As if they have to solve everything themselves. Furthermore, not all children are satisfied with their lives. 13.3% (1 out of 8) of the children rate their lives as unsatisfactory. There are large differences between the provinces in terms of children’s well-being. This appears from the Children’s Ombudsman’s report ‘If you ask us’, which will be published on Thursday.
Large differences between the provinces
The children in Friesland, Groningen and Limburg experience more vulnerabilities in their lives, are more negative about their quality of life and also more often rate their lives as unsatisfactory. Certainly in comparison with children in Drenthe and Overijssel, who are most happy with their lives. For example, there is almost an even-digit difference between the province with the highest score – Drenthe (8.1) – and the province with the lowest score, Friesland (7.2).
All children are remarkably negative about the role that adults (not their parents) play in their lives. This is even more important for children who have to deal with one or more vulnerabilities in their lives. This year it also highlighted that children want more participation and more inclusiveness in society. If children were in charge, they would draw attention to fighting poverty.
Children’s Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer: “Of course, I think it’s great that most children are satisfied with their lives. Despite all the big problems going on in the world and what they are worried about. At the same time, I find it very worrying that children’s well-being apparently depends on where they grow up. Children deserve equality, in perspective and in development opportunities. Nor should they feel that they have to solve everything themselves. It is up to the adults to organize this properly and support children in this”.
Vulnerabilities that children indicate may be personal or arise in the home situation. Personal vulnerabilities include, for example, receiving youth care or being on a waiting list, mental problems or a physical disorder, being a refugee or following special education. In the home situation, it concerns vulnerabilities such as poverty, a complex divorce, a lot of arguments, a sick or dependent parent or a parent who has passed away.
The municipalities must go to work
The Children’s Ombudsman primarily seeks solutions to these worrying outcomes from the municipalities. Since decentralisation, the municipalities have largely been responsible for children’s well-being and development. Therefore, the Children’s Ombudsman believes that the municipalities should find out how their children are doing and where their bottlenecks are. And that children must be involved in the solutions and policies that are developed. It is essential that children have equal opportunities and have a say in decisions that affect them.
This also follows from the core of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The municipalities, but also the national government, should therefore assess in advance the impact of these measures on the realization of children’s rights when developing policy, legislation and regulations.
The Children’s Ombudsman conducts the survey ‘If you ask us’ every two years. Children indicate how happy and satisfied they are with various aspects of their lives. But also what concerns they have and what bottlenecks they experience. The results of the questionnaire also make it clear that major social developments, such as the climate and nitrogen crisis, the war in Ukraine and the farmers’ protests, are also invading children’s lives. The Children’s Rights Committee shares the concerns of these children. She is now preparing a general commentary, where children’s right to a clean, healthy and sustainable living environment is central.