We watched a film last night on Netflix called Hector and the Search for Happiness. It’s beautifully filmed, and quite quirky, with some poignant questions. At the heart of the film the main character, a psychiatrist played by Simon Pegg, goes on a journey trying to find out what makes people happy. It sounds really corny, but surprisingly it wasn’t, it was actually very moving. I have also been reading recently a book by Anthony Seldon called Beyond Happiness. Both the book and the film ask questions about what makes people happy, and why are some people more happy than others. Anthony Seldon argues that happiness is good but can be fleeting and it is a deep sense of joy that people really need.
Through the nurture work I work with children who can be very unhappy. In our team we use an assessment tool called Thrive. This tool helps us to look at a child’s social and emotional development. One of the first stages on the thrive assessment is looking at a child’s ‘being needs’. It describes these as, ‘a child needs to feel safe, to feel special and to have their needs met.’ Initially it is quite easy to look at these criteria and presume that is obvious and something that everyone needs. However as I and my colleagues have worked with these criteria and reflected on them, I have increasingly realised just how fundamental and vital they are. If a child is feeling scared and unsafe, if they don’t believe they are special and don’t hear that they are special, or if their basic needs are not being met including the need to be loved, then they cannot be happy. Their wellbeing will be low, and the way they view and see the world will be through very distorted and unhappy lenses.
As Nurture Workers our role is to support the educators in meeting children’s needs. Through nurture work and support, and providing an emotionally and nurturing stable environment, we often see good progress. However I am also aware that so many other children, young people, and adults are also in a place where their basic needs are not being met and consequently they are carrying great sadness. For me the search for happiness is implicitly linked to thinking about these questions; are you feeling safe, do you feel special, are your needs being met? I believe these questions are worth exploring when working with people who are unhappy.
image is of a moment of light by Summer Mainstone-Cotton