This past week I was involved in a conversation that challenged me to think about the difference between children’s well-being versus their well-doing. Prior to this conversation I had not contemplated the concept of well-doing, yet this conversation gave me pause. Have I really been supporting children’s well-being, or have I spent most of my energy focused on their well-doing?
For me the concept of well-doing infers a focus on how “well” children act or behave. To raise well-doing children, I believe I need to teach children the skills they need to successfully navigate the world and reach their full potential: effective ways to express feelings, overcome challenges and build relationships. I have spent a lot of energy supporting children as they master the skills needed to do these things well.
But what can I do to nurture children’s well-being, to help them be happy, confident and resilient? First, I make sure their environment supports what is best for children. This means providing a safe and healthy environment that reinforces for children that they are secure, taken care of and valued. In my experience this is accomplished by my ability to attend to both the physical and emotional needs of children, which means that children are fed, clothed and safe AND their feelings and needs are validated.
In addition, I pay attention to children’s inner voices and how each child approaches the world. My own well-being is fed by my artistic approach to the world; the more creative and playful I am, the more confident and happier I feel.
Children have the same needs. My nephew Luke approaches the world with a competitive spirit. He sets goals for himself and actively pursues his success. His confidence and happiness soars when he reaches the summit. Yet my nephew Nate approaches the world with an exploring spirit. He wants to take in as much as he can and always wants to know what is next. His confidence and happiness soars when he finds the summit.
By paying attention to how they approach the world, I can make sure my nephews get messages from me that support their well-being. Luke benefits from reminders that his hard work has always paid off, that coming-up short is not the same as failing and that he has the skills he needs to be successful. Nate benefits from messages that reassure him that by exploring all his options he will find what works for him, that he is resilient and he can count on himself to make the right choices and succeed.
Well-being and well-doing aren’t at odds. It is not one versus the other, but how well we support our children in both “living” happy and “doing” well.