The wild winds didn’t stop approximately 75 parents from across Niagara from attending the Learning, Well-Being and Achievement Fair at Denis Morris Catholic High School on April 5. The event was hosted by the Niagara Catholic Parent Involvement Committee, and featured workshops focused on tips and tricks to help students succeed in mathematics and literacy, and then a presentation by Dr. Bruce Ferguson, one of Canada’s foremost experts on the well-being of children and youth. Dr. Ferguson is Senior Consultant in the Child and Youth Mental Health Research Unit Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. He’s also a father and grandfather and speaks passionately about what creates a feeling of well-being among children.
First and foremost, Dr. Ferguson said, it’s important to instill a sense of trust in children. Children who are able to trust those around them are able to trust themselves later in life, creating a sense of confidence in their own abilities.
Dr. Ferguson also said when you ask a child what they want, they almost always ask for time over something material. He recounted the story of taking his family to Florida in February and, when asked at the end of the trip, his grandchildren said their favourite thing was having dinner together outside, followed by spending time together watching movies. Disney and the other theme parks, he said, ranked third on their list. That’s consistent with his point that relationships are the key to healthy child development, noting that being and belonging are fundamental to learning.
It’s important to note, said Dr. Ferguson, that achievement may predict future income, but if you ask a number of happy and successful adults what laid the groundwork for their lives, it was having a happy childhood that made the difference in their lives. Those who feel like they belong, are connected to others, have a sense of purpose and a hope for the future report the best well-being as children and as adults.
Wrapping up, Dr. Ferguson spoke about the importance of every interaction children have with those around them, especially when they fail. Parents, teachers and others should treat a failure as an learning opportunity. If a failure is treated that way, children gain confidence in themselves to try new things, and can trust that those around them will support them when they challenge themselves. He then touched briefly on the biggest threats to well-being, including a lack of sleep and too much screen time. Scroll through the photos for more from this very informative event.