¿Que hace a los niños holandeses los mas felices del mundo?, Ciudades que les permiten deambular 

This past weekend, as if the universe knew we were longing for our days in the Netherlands, a story popped into our newsfeed touting that Dutch children are the happiest in the world. The article – an excerpt from a book published this week – looks at the lived experiences of two ex-pat mothers (one American and one British) raising families in the Netherlands, relating them to a 2013 study conducted by UNICEF that found Dutch kids topped the list for overall well-being when compared to the world’s 29 wealthiest countries.Naturally, having recently experienced firsthand why they may have ranked number one, we shared the post with our audience – many of whom liked and shared it themselves. At a time when so many people in North America seem to be focused on raising healthy, happy, well-adjusted children, it looks like the Dutch have figured out the magic recipe – seemingly without much effort.So just what is this well-kept secret that allows the Netherlands – along with many Northern European countries – to raise such happy children? And what steps can we, in North America, take to improve the lives of our own offspring?Step 1: Build an Inclusive EnvironmentYou can’t read a story about the Netherlands – including the aforementioned – without one simple fact being repeated over and over: many Dutch kids walk or cycle to school on their own as early as the first day of kindergarten. Having arrived in Rotterdam just as the school year was coming to a close last July, we can attest to streets filled with children travelling to and from school with their classmates, hardly a parent in sight.Even as summer holidays began, we lost count of the number of youngsters roaming around their cities adult-free – something reserved for those in high school back home.What makes the Dutch experience so different is not simply a more relaxed approach to parenting, but rather a built environment that is welcoming, comfortable, and safe. High streets boast wide, separated cycle tracks, and neighbourhood streets feature traffic calming such as reduced speeds, special paint signifying that bikes have priority, and clearly identified raised crossings, forcing all road users to slow down for the vulnerable.Reading this recent story reminded us of a tweet Melissa shared before Christmas, bemoaning how – at least in North America – we constantly talk about how kids these days “need to be more active” and “spend less time on screens”. Meanwhile, we’ve systematically taken away the freedom to be active by building our cities for cars.By creating a streetscape where young kids are as welcome to travel as their adult counterparts, Dutch parents and children alike feel comfortable navigating their neighbouhoods, reducing the stress many of us in North America will admit is routine in trips to work, school and even the corner store. For parents, this reduction in anxiety is integral to the second step in the Dutch happiness equation.Step 2: Inspire the Freedom to RoamAfter years of bubble-wrap parenting (while we would argue we still have a long way to go), we have seen a shift in recent years that acknowledges healthier children are those who are entrusted with greater responsibility from an early age. It is now commonly known as “free-range parenting” (although the Dutch would just call it “parenting”). But with road conditions that would shake even the most steadfast adult, many parents – ourselves included – would admit the biggest concern with giving our children more freedom are the conditions of our streets.In the Netherlands, after spending the last half a century correcting their mistakes, and giving space back to people, those concerns about dangerous streets have all but vanished. The comfort and ease of navigating their streets mean that Dutch parents freely allow their children the ability to travel outside of their watchful gaze.We experienced this sense of calm almost immediately upon stepping off the train in Rotterdam, our first stop in our #CyclingAbroad adventure. It inspired us to give our own children a little more freedom during our travels, letting them explore our adoptive neighbourhoods and parks while we enjoyed some quiet moments reading or socializing with friends.Allowing their children to explore outside of their reach, Dutch parents are instilling a greater sense of responsibility and independence in their children early on. This, in turn, attributes to their well-being, letting them test their abilities, challenge themselves, and developing a greater sense of self.Step 3: Accepting It Is Time for a Cultural ShiftThe Dutch are not better parents than North Americans. We all love our children and want the best for them. Somewhere along the way, though, we took different paths. Where North Americans started building designated spaces for our kids to keep them away from ever-increasing traffic volumes, the Dutch fought to reclaim space back from the cars.After the rates of children killed by vehicles sky-rocketed

Origen: What Makes Dutch Kids the Happiest in the World? Cities That Allow Them to Roam — Modacity: Inspiration • Mobility • Simplicity

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