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The importance of happy adults for happy kids

Words by Smiley Team

To help children thrive and flourish, they need the adults in their lives to be alongside them for the ride.

Family Links, The Centre for Emotional Health, is a national charity dedicated to the promotion of emotional health at home, at school, and at work. On 28 April, the charity is running its 25th anniversary conference, “Building the Capabilities of Adults in Children’s Lives”, at Wellcome Collection, London.

The conference aims to discuss the ways in which all adults in children’s lives can enable them to flourish and achieve. 

“Healthy child development is crucial for individual children but also for their families, schools and wider society; a productive society is built on a foundation of healthy child development,” Sarah Darton, Chief Executive, Family Links, tells Smiley News.

“The building blocks for this development include stable, responsive relationships and safe, supportive environments. Many of us are aware of the importance of physical and cognitive development for children’s future life chances but underestimate the importance of social and emotional development.”

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Emotional health at age 16 is a stronger predictor of mental health and life chances at age 30 than either demographic or socio-economic factors, adds Sarah. “Significant emotional adversity in childhood can disrupt the body’s stress response systems and affect the architecture of the developing brain, the cardiovascular system, the immune system, and metabolic controls.”

Stable and supportive environments for children

So why does the charity focus on supporting adults in their early relationships with their children? “Babies are born with the majority of neurons or nerve cells already present in their brains (more than 80 billion of them!) but the ways in which these nerve cells connect and work together is influenced by relationships and experiences,” explains Sarah. 

“Stable and supportive relationships, language-rich environments, and mutually responsive, ‘serve and return’ interactions with adults promote healthy brain connections in babies and the development of the all-important regulatory systems.”

Children need adults who are able to tune into and respond to their emotional needs: to recognise and name their feelings, she adds. “Building the emotional health and capabilities of the adults is crucial if they are to be able to do this for the children in their lives.”

The conference will share the latest research on the impact of trauma and what children need from adults for healthy emotional development. 

There will be opportunities for hearing about practice examples in early years and school communities and for networking and discussion. “We aim to raise the profile of emotional health as the foundation for healthy relationships, lifelong learning and wellbeing,” adds Sarah.  

Inspired to act?

BOOK: Book your place at the charity's conference on its website

TRAIN: See ways you can boost your own approaches by looking through Family Links' training programmes


This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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