Whole-child wellness is about children having healthy minds and healthy bodies—and includes these five areas:
- Healthy Body: Parents can model healthy habits and ensure that children eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. Access to parks and playgrounds and quality health providers is also important.
- Learning/Development: Children need supportive teachers, access to libraries and sports clubs, and opportunities to read and learn at home with family members.
- Safety: Children must feel safe at home and in their neighborhood, including at school, and they need trustable adults around them.
- Social-Emotional: A strong parent-child relationship and extended family support and connection to culture/community are crucial, as is making sure the child feels happy and confident, has friends, and is able to manage emotions.
- Basic Needs: Children need stable housing, adequate food and clothing, and a general feeling of having their most important needs taken care of.
To have true wellness, children need:
- health care
- nutritious food
- fresh air and exercise
- safe play spaces
- a good learning environment
- a safe and stable home and community environment
- a strong family bond
- support from extended family and friends
- connection to one’s community and culture
- self-confidence and a hopeful outlook
- a sense of purpose and identity
- a positive belief system (this may mean organized religion, but also refers to any shared outlook that builds inner strength, a sense of hope, and a way to make sense of the world)
Parents’ health and children’s health go hand in hand. When children see parents taking care of themselves and modeling healthy habits—such as reaching out for help in making sure the whole family has the things listed above, everyone benefits.
But families also need a great health care team. Doctors and nurses can be an important source of information and encouragement for families, and their offices or clinics can be safe places in which parents and children feel comfortable asking questions and talking about what they need in order to be as healthy as they can be. They’re also great places to notice and celebrate children’s healthy growth!