Thriving & Healthy Youth

Every human has ups and downs in their lifetime. But in childhood, vulnerable experiences or negative events can have more major impacts and leave marks in adult life. A balanced childhood contributes to a stable future. It increases the individual well-being, also at an older age. And it will have long-term social, economical and health gains.

Enhancing resilience

In the community Thriving & Healthy Youth, the focus is on enhancing development opportunities, resilience and destigmatising children and youths. All children, but with a special focus on children dealing with cancer, chronic illness, mental disability, poverty, trauma, neglect, divorce or loss of a loved one during their childhoods.

Early warning

An important cornerstone in the research project is recognising which children and youths need support in an early stage. By systematically following them and mapping their vulnerabilities when it comes to their health, well-being, participation in social activities and school. Besides acknowledging problems, we expressly focus on what children and youths can do at personal, societal and social levels.

Course-of-life perspective

We explicitly look at what children can do, and how children can be empowered. This way, we want to contribute to a healthy development of youths. From a course-of-life perspective, our community does not focus on a specific age demographic, but instead looks at how children can develop resilience from childhood to adulthood.

Attention to play

Play is an important field of attention within this domain. Playing is fun, but playing is also important. By playing alone or with peers, children learn to know themselves, how to interact with each other, but also how to solve problems and how to think creatively. Playing is not self-evident to each child. There are big differences in the possibilities for play as a result of differences in social-economic status, environments in which children grow up, physical disabilities or a chronic illness. Even though at the same time, play can lay an important foundation in the long run. That is why we have special attention for the influence of play on children's development within this domain, a subject that we approach from various angles - geographical, neurobiological, educational-scientific, pedagogical and clinical.

Joining forces

Within the community Thriving & Healthy Youth, we want to use data that was or is being collected within existing youth cohorts. By joining forces and encouraging data exchange beyond the boundaries of faculties, we can gain a much better overview on factors that explain how children and youths thrive. We also use this information to develop interventions in order to further support the resilience of children and youths who need that. This can be along the lines of digital apps with which youths who are chronically fatigued learn to ration their exertion, music therapy for children with autism-spectrum disorder or a game that helps children to better express their emotions.

The community ‘Thriving and Healthy’ comprises the specialisations of paediatricians, education specialists, game scientists, neurobiologists, clinical psychologists, lawyers, behavioural scientists, developmental psychologists, educational scientists and more. Within this domain, interdisciplinary collaboration and combining expertises are central. There are also active connections with societal partners and practitioners from paediatrics, game therapy, psychosocial youth care, youth and family support, child-protective services and game developers.

Dr. Heidi Lesscher, Dr. Sanne Nijhof & Dr. Odilia Laceulle

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