Guest blog by Alyson Schafer (

It was Mahatma Gandhi who said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members”. With that in mind, we must remember that children are some of the most vulnerable members of society and it is our duty to take responsibility and ensure the well-being of Canadian children. 

UNICEF’s report card 11, which compared child well-being in rich countries, revealed that Canadian children are amongst the unhappiest, and that this unhappiness is continuing to rise. Furthermore, the report stated that we are now 24th out of 29 countries when measuring children’s life satisfaction. Worse, Canadian children are 25th out of 28 industrialized countries when ranking their relationships with parents and peers.

Given that one of the cornerstones for mental health is a feeling of belonging and connection, it should come as no surprise that, as these key relations erode, mental health issues blossom in return.



Mental health providers are currently reporting a huge rise in incidence rates for childhood anxiety and depression. For example, anxiety disorders affect 25% of children 13-18 years old, and suicide is now the second leading cause of death in teenagers in the United States. Given that 70% of adult mental health issues have roots in childhood and adolescence, and that 1/5 people will experience a mental health issue in any given year, we all have reason to be concerned. 

Our children, as the next generation, are not faring well. We as responsible adults have a duty and responsibility to rectify this situation. We have to ask the tough questions, do the research, find the answers, and fix the problems that are responsible for our children’s poor mental health. It’s time to stop being concerned and instead take action.


In my 20 years of working with families as a parent educator and family counsellor, here’s my personal thoughts – in no particular order – on how we can get the ball rolling: 

  1. Encourage every parent to take a parenting class. Prenatal education is now the accepted norm, and so should post-natal parenting classes. There should be no stigma in wanting to learn about child development and child guidance.
  2. We must shift our cultural mindset back to character education so that our focus is on raising great moral people, instead of setting our children up to compete for grades, success, and attaining a position in the workforce.
  3. Prioritize values and renew our commitment to investing time and attention to our families and communities. Expend less energy on unnecessary distractions like cell-phones or other consuming technology.
  4. Stop pathologizing children via the rigid definitions of the new DSM-V. Most counselling associations are now turning to the World Health Organization instead.
  5. Eliminate homework; it’s been proven to actually hurt learning and it mostly eats up family time, ultimately creating conflict.
  6. Include positive discipline training for teachers in the classroom.
  7. Fully fund anti-bullying campaigns in all schools.
  8. Join the UNICEF ONE Youth movement and sign the commitment.

And, finally… keep the conversation going.


Alyson Schafer B.Sc. MA Counselling

Alyson is one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is a family therapist with a clinical practice in Toronto, and has penned 3 best-selling parenting books; Breaking the Good Mom Myth, Honey, I Wrecked The Kids, and Ain’t Misbehavin’.

She is the resident parenting expert on such popular shows as; The Marilyn Denis Show, Global Morning, The Parenting Show, CBC radio. She is also the resident parenting expert for HuffPost Canada. Alyson delivers her deep insights in ways that today's busy parents can easily understand and immediately apply. She promotes a firm but friendly "democratic parenting" style, and offers practical solutions backed by extensive research and 20 years of working with families.