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NZ children’s positive mental health linked to quality time

Life Education Trust and Cigna launch ‘Small Changes Whānau Challenge’ to encourage families to spend more time together to support the mental health of 9-12 year-old Kiwi children

In our complex and changing society, the mental health and well-being of our children shapes their success in the future. In New Zealand, children and young people face an increasing number of issues that can seriously impact their well-being.

Life Education’s 2018 survey of children aged 9-12 revealed the extent of some of these challenges to the health and wellbeing of our future generation. Six out of ten reported they have been bullied, while one in five said they were ‘really sad or stressed about things’ most of the time.

In response, Cigna New Zealand and Life Education have partnered to develop the ‘Small Changes Whānau Challenge’, a new take home resource being launched today that will support classroom learning.

“A promising insight from our survey was that the vast majority of the children said they love spending time with their family,” says John O’Connell, Chief Executive Life Education. “Research tells us that young people who report caring and supportive family relationships are happier, healthier and get on better in life*.

“That’s why we have joined forces with Cigna to develop the ‘Small Changes Whānau Challenge’ - to bring families together by giving them fun and educational activities in which to participate, helping them focus on their health, well-being and family time.”

Vince Warnock, Chief Marketing Officer of Cigna New Zealand, says the organisation’s own 360 Well-Being Survey highlights parents’ concerns that the stresses of modern-day life is impacting the amount of time they have to spend with their families.

“Over the last three years we have seen a trend where parents say they don’t feel they spend enough time with their family. By providing fun and easy activities, we hope that ‘Small Changes’ will encourage families to take just 15-30 minutes together each day over next three weeks.”

To teach children about wellbeing Life Education speak to them about the importance of feeling good about who they are, about feeling healthy and about feeling happy – all vital parts of wellbeing.

‘Small Changes’ focuses on four key well-being pillars – connecting with each other, moving each day, nourishing your body and appreciating yourself and others. Each pillar is supported by expert advice of the campaign’s ambassadors – Avril McDonald (Feel Brave), John Parson (Cyber Resilience), Walter Neilands (Children’s TV Presenter – Sticky TV) and Danijela Unkovich (Nutritionist).

Along with the lovable mascot Harold, Life Education’s educators will visit more than 150 schools across the country throughout term two, and distribute 17,000 activity packs to encourage families to visit the interactive ‘Small Changes’ website

The challenge materials have been developed to engage the whole family with. The website includes a range of easy-to-do activities, while the pack includes a planner and spinner to help families choose and schedule an activity each day.

“As an added incentive to get involved, those who take part and register online at to go into draw to win a $2,500 family travel voucher! This would certainly help a family spend more time together,” says Mr Warnock.

“At the heart of what we do, Life Education and Cigna share the value of the importance of health and wellbeing.

“This activity is just a small part of the important work Life Education do with our young people across New Zealand – teaching them that every person is special and unique. We are really excited to support Life Education and the amazing work they do to educate and empower children to make healthy choices so they can live full and healthy lives,” he said.

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