Needs and Gifts

Last week HRF published our timely communication report ‘Care at Home for those with extra needs.’ The message of the report is very clear one: it is in the home that needs are met and care is not just given but reciprocated. The focus of the report is on those with extra needs, broadly defined in terms of needing extra support for physical or intellectual disabilities.

There is another side of this coin that can sometimes go unnoticed. The specific care and support, not of those with extra needs, but of those with extra or particular gifts. The phrase “gifted children” is one that conjures up for many of us images of musical or maths prodigies, but in fact, a wide range of giftedness can be identified across the curriculum. It might also seem that this is a “non-problem” as surely the gifted are at a natural advantage at school and in later life?

A recent paper in the prestigious International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health suggests things are not so smooth as we might think.
“Emotional Intelligence Profiles and Self-Esteem/Self-Concept: An Analysis of Relationships in Gifted Students” by Ana María Casino-García, María José Llopis-Bueno and Lucía Inmaculada Llinares-Insa, looks at the lived experience and potential disadvantages of being identified as a gifted child. Evidence suggests that depending on the support and understanding offered to such children, emotional responses vary from thriving to vulnerability.

What seems a key driver in this is the recognition and nurturing of students’ Emotional Intelligence (EI). The development of high EI is connected to higher levels of self-understanding and esteem, but also understanding the motivation and needs of others. High EI can help build the resilience and empathy necessary for all children to thrive, but can be seen as particularly relevant for the mental health of intellectually gifted children.

It is the quality of such children’s relationships with others that is “one of the strongest predictors of their well-being.” Negative experiences of feeling isolated from their peers – “singled-out” – can result from being identified as gifted, if the identification is not followed up by appropriate support. The authors cite the importance of teachers and education professionals in this support, but conclude, tellingly, “The most important source of social support is family; family cohesion is essential for life satisfaction.”

The full paper is a detailed examination of the evidence building to this conclusion, but for HRF and our vision we hear the same, strong message: the irrefutable link between home, relationships and well-being. The home is where needs are met and gifts are nurtured – whatever those needs, whatever those gifts.

With what motivation do we act at home?

As we have already explained previously, our latest book talks about the People who live in a home, the Care they require and provide and the Work involved in the correct management of our homes.

It is a book that was born as a result of the Conference on Wellbeing that was held in 2017 and that sought to delve into what are the sources of wellbeing for the person. Without a doubt, one of those sources and in turn, the main stage of our life is the home, since it is the place where the person is born and takes his first steps as a social being, marking his life forever.

According to Professor Argandoña, author of one of the chapters dealing with Work, the home is an institution with multiple purposes. The home is reproduction, food, learning, socialization, producer of goods and services, care of children, the sick and the elderly, provider of physical and ontological security. But also home is a hotel, restaurant, school, hospital, a place of entertainment, a school of virtues…

In other words, the home has many functions, although the main one would be “learning to live by assuming different tasks.” Household members, regardless of their age, must be willing to carry out different jobs while living together because the proper functioning of the “institution” will depend on that relationship that is established between them and on that common effort.

To understand work at home, you have to know the 3 types of results that derive from our actions and that are specified as extrinsic, intrinsic and transcendent. That is, what we hope to receive: the food on the plate each day; what we hope to achieve: learning to share, or learning to cook, or the satisfaction of a pleasant home; and what we hope to give: considering, taking into account the needs of others.

But it is important to understand that in the home there is no intention to compare because the home is not a market in which we continuously compare what we give and what we receive. In many cases, there is no direct reciprocity, nor possible forms of compensation. The only possible measure of this distribution is love.

Love is the most intense way to share. Love is, par excellence, the main virtue in the home” says Argandoña. Benevolent love is demonstrated when the person acts with a transcendent motivation, that is, when he only takes into account the needs of the other and seeks his good, not his own benefit. That is why Professor Argandoña says: “the home is a privileged place for the exercise of care. It is the temple of the civilization of care.”

How many times do we act like this in our homes?

Happy Homes: Happy Society? Going Forward!

If 2020 taught us to do and think things differently, then 2021 is giving us plenty of practice in this different doing and thinking. Behind every headline and statistic are individuals, families and homes that are living this reality of the pandemic.

At Home Renaissance Foundation we have been deeply moved by the stories that have been shared with us over the last year. We have been encouraged in our work by the ways in which people are working to keep things going for each other, from the frontline key workers to those offering daily care in their homes and communities.

When we planned our 2020 Conference Happy Homes: Happy Society? The contribution of domestic life in a time of social changes, we could have no idea of the seismic social changes that the coronavirus was about to unleash. The contribution of domestic life has been incalculable and for so many of us “home” has been the only place of constancy and security – a rock in the shifting sands of the ongoing emergency.

It was very important then, to continue our work and to honour the contributions offered to the conference. We launched Happy Homes: Happy Society in November with a series of short video presentations by distinguished experts engaging with this vital topic. They can be seen here.

We are delighted that February will see paper givers to the conference able to present their work at a series of online workshops. The range of responses is reflected in the four workshop areas: Happy Dwelling? Perspectives on the World; Values and Domestic Life; Rediscovering Relationships in the Context of Social Changes; Technology and Well-Being in the Home.

We are grateful to Professors Abdelmonem, Chirinos and Nogal, and to Dr. Stephen Davies for their time and expertise in facilitating these sessions.

Although the context of these presentations is an academic conference, their wider resonance is not hard to find: “Positive Parenting in Covid Times”; “Working Women and Work-Family Conflicts: is working remotely the key to a better balance?”; “Smart Homes and Domestic Well-Being: What has been lost?” These are just a flavour of the very relevant and timely contributions that will be shared. We shall keep you all “in the loop” as these conversations develop.

We may be doing things differently but our commitment to seeing the home at the heart of life remains unchanged. Together, Homes are stronger!

People, Care and Work in the Home

We are delighted to announce the worldwide launch of our latest book ‘People, Care and Work in the Home’. This was published in 2020 by Routledge and we have gathered together the editors and some of the authors such as Lord Best and Baroness Hollins to present its launch online. In collaboration with Nottingham Trent University, the launch will be held next Thursday, January 21 at 12.00 pm (Uk).

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Here you have the review that Professor Rosa Lastra wrote about the book.

Covid-19 has brought back the home to the centre of our society. Home has become a place to work, to teach, to study. Home is that safe space at the intersection of our work and family/personal life. The Pandemic forced billions of individuals and families to stay at home for several months in 2020. The neat divide between home and office has been eroded. The time is thus ripe for an in-depth analysis of what the home means for us all, from cradle to grave, and how it permeates every aspect of our lives. It is in this context that a new book  People, Care and Work in the Home, edited by Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem and Antonio Argandoña is such a welcome and timely addition to the literature on the subject. Though it was written long before the spread of the Coronavirus, its findings are of critical importance. Home now emerges yet again as the safe haven in a fast-changing world.

The collected volume brings together seventeen contributions from outstanding scholars, researchers, and practitioners from different disciplines and professional backgrounds, offering a multi-disciplinary analysis of the challenges contemporary homes face, focusing on the care and wellbeing of people in the domestic sphere. The book, which includes case studies from the UK, Continental Europe, South America, and South East Asia, presents a novel approach to the study of the home, at a time in which homes are becoming the focal locus for care and wellbeing. The chairman of the Home Renaissance Foundation, Bryan K. Sanderson CBE, writes in the foreword to the book that the opportunity to draw attention to the role the home plays in lifelong health and wellbeing is one of great significance to the work of the Home Renaissance Foundation (HRF) since its mission is to renew the culture and to restore the value of the home for everyone.

The editors note in their introductory chapter, while books on home relations and environments are typically defined by specific discipline or research areas, such as psychology, sociology, geography, ethnology, and others, this book engages a multitude of research domains based on shared enquiries on the home as a place of care, of people, and of work. The book adopts a broad conception of the home, including people (the family), place (the housing), environment (neighbourhood, city, town), and society, considering its multifaceted dimensions: anthropological, ethical, economic, political, social, psychological, and spatial. It evaluates and interrogate different impacts on people (knowledge, skills, values, virtues, etc.) and environments (family, business, social entities, public bodies, etc.) looking also at public policy and legislative solutions.

The book is divided into three parts (home and people, home and work, home and care) and addresses the changing demographics and changing needs of our modern society and their impact upon the dynamics and relationships within the home from being personal and private to encompassing domestic work, care for older people, or supporting people with special needs. Whilst the home is a concept universally experienced, permeating every aspect of our lives, it remains an entity whose influence on health and wellbeing is poorly understood.

The book caters for people of all needs and backgrounds. Sheila the Baroness Hollins, crossbench life peer in the House of Lords, and emeritus professor of psychiatry of disability at St. George’s University of London, in a chapter entitled “Aspirations of people with intellectual disability for an ordinary home and an ordinary life” tries to unpick some basic aspects of home and what it might mean to people who may have few choices about where they live and who they live with. She speaks of the work of the international development charity Hope and Homes, which quite simply aims to close down orphanages worldwide and instead support local communities to find substitute family homes for abandoned and orphaned children. This is the type of initiative that Home Renaissance Foundation strongly endorses.

Lord Best – who co-chairs the APPG on Housing and Care for Older People, including its recent inquiry, “Rural Housing for an Ageing Population: Preserving Independence” (R-HAPPI) and who has piloted four Private Members Bills on housing successfully through the House of Lords, most recently the “Homelessness Reduction Act 2017” – proposes key steps to provide adequate homes for an ageing society, considering the needs of space and light, warmth, accessibility, and manageability and invites us all to act as citizens, as voters and as consumers to persuade the government to give as much priority to their housing policies for older people as for younger people. As social animals we need contact with others. He writes: “Tailor-made new housing for our later years brings opportunities to do things with neighbours, whether in the all-singing, all-dancing context of full-blown retirement communities, or the more intimate settings of small retirement developments.” And this is not just to create a more humane environment. “At a time when local authority care budgets are in crisis and the NHS is desperately short of funds – and hospital beds – the importance of adequate housing for senior citizens makes sense at every level.”

José Victor Orón Semper talking about UpToYou focuses on the early years of life, emphasizing how childhood lays the foundations for future life. Everything we learn indeed starts at home, he reminds us. The dispositions acquired in the early years towards oneself last throughout life. Thus, it is more important to educate about the dispositions than specific behaviours. For example, developing the initiative to move one object is far more important than putting the object in the right place.

Sir Harry BurnsAccording to Professor Sir Harry Burns: “From the outside, a home is simply a building. It’s inside that the magic happens. If a home is a place where children feel safe and happy, they will learn they are loved and respected and, as a result, they are likely to grow up to love and respect others. They will grow in health and wellbeing and develop a sense of purpose, allowing them to make decisions as to the future direction of their lives.” And that is why it is imperative to devise public policies that support disadvantaged families in delivering a safe environment for their children with positive parenting anchored in the home as a nurturing place.

Happiness – more than a feeling

If during this tumultuous year someone had asked “How do you feel?” very few of us would have answered by saying “Happy.” But if the question had been phrased “How are you coping?” many more of us would have answered –without false optimism– “quite well” or even “surprisingly well.”

This highlights the distinction between personal feelings – often fleeting emotional reactions – and the deeper, more lasting resilience of response to the demands of life.

This is the argument of Richard, Lord Layard in his extensive work in the field of what he has called “the new science” of happiness. The words “happy” and “happiness” are a necessary shorthand for a range of activities and attitudes that contribute to personal well-being. Taking happiness seriously has led to the development of several well-authenticated strategies for building this well-being in ourselves and fostering it in our children.

Action for Happiness is a movement of people building a happier society by making positive changes in their personal lives, homes, workplaces and communities, and a charity with which Lord Layard has closely identified. Its 10 keys to greater happiness have as a mnemonic “GREAT DREAM.”

Action for Happiness’s website tells us “Our happiness is not set in stone. Although our genes influence about 50% of the variation in our personal happiness, our circumstances (like income and environment) affect only about 10%. As much as 40% is accounted for by our daily activities and the conscious choices we make. So the good news is that our actions really can make a difference.”

To ourselves and to those with whom we share our lives. This has also been borne out by persuasive if only as yet anecdotal evidence that during this pandemic it is the quality of our relationships that have made the most difference to us all.

Happy people make happy relationships and this leads to happy communities. At Home Renaissance Foundation we have been keen to add the missing element to this equation: How does the home contribute to happiness – personal and for wider society. This is the question raised by our forthcoming academic sessions, supported by the Social Trends Institute, Happy Homes: Happy Society? The contribution of domestic life in a time of social changes.

We are delighted to have Lord Layard as a key contributor to these sessions, in which world-class academics share their perspectives on the relationship between home and well-being.

Please find the schedule of video presentations here ready for our launch on Thursday 12th and Friday 13th November. The agenda is also available on our site.

Happiness is more than a feeling – and it starts at home.

People, Care and Work in the Home

It would be hard to find a more important time for the publication of People, Care and Work in the Home. These last months have brought to the forefront of all our lives the importance of the home and the people, work and care that happens within them.

The book, published this week with Routledge, brings together academic and professional expertise in these fields, first gathered at the 2017 4th International HRF Conference: “A Home, a place of growth, care and wellbeing.”

What was clear at the conference was that these vital things – growth and wellbeing  – do not just “happen.” For strong, healthy individuals, families and communities there needs to be attention paid and support given to the frontline of where these patterns begin – at home.

Professor Mohamed Gamal Abdelmonem and Professor Antonio Argandoña, editors of People, Care and Work in the Home have worked with contributors to bring to wider attention this multidisciplinary approach to society’s key building blocks.

Sir Harry Burns, professor of Global Public Health at the University of Strathclyde, and former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, underlines the importance of home for life-long health and healthy relationships in his contribution to the publication:

Sir Harry Burns“From the outside, a home is simply a building. It’s inside that the magic happens. If a home is a place where children feel safe and happy, they will learn they are loved and respected and, as a result, they are likely to grow up to love and respect others. They will grow in health and wellbeing and develop a sense of purpose, allowing them to make decisions as to the future direction of their lives. Children who experience a nurturing, safe upbringing are likely, as adults, to create a positive home environment for their own children and so, positive outcomes for families are handed on to the next generation.”

If those early experiences are not positive the results are less happy, less healthy for individuals and for society – examples of which are not hard to find.

This recent pandemic, the lockdown and enforced time at home together has given new energy to those determined to champion the unique and priceless role it plays in our lives. In the words of Professor Argandoña:

“The home grows with solidarity, sharing everything. And the most complete way of sharing is love, that is, to take care of others. That is what we learn at home throughout our lives, although in a different way at each stage of that life. In this period of confinement we have learned to live together, ignoring the deficiencies of others; to share, that is, to give and give ourselves.”

People, Care and Work in the Home is a very important articulation of that insight to inform both research and policy in how we value what is given and what is received at home.

The 25% of people give up on their resolutions after just a week!

As we are now half-way through January and the New Year kicks in and good resolutions abound, there’s no better place to look for inspiration than in the home.

Setting ourselves achievable tasks and goals is all about improving the wellbeing of ourselves and others, something that occurs naturally on a day-to-day basis in a well-managed home. It’s within the family that a child gains a concept of their individual worth by helping out with the running of the home and caring for others. A happy child is a well stimulated one who takes an active part and even relishes being given ‘grown up’ tasks from a very young age – just look at how some toddlers love to mimic their parents and siblings and throw tantrums if they are not allowed to join in!

The Harvard Grant study into the parenting of successful children proved a link between high achieving adults and being made to do chores as children, and subsequently seeing them as a part of life. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University and Duke University, which tracked more than 700 children from nursery age to 25, also showed achievement linked to being taught social skills from a young age, an Illinois study found that children’s overall success hinged on their parents having healthy relationships, while a survey of 6,600 US children born in 2001 discovered their drive came from their parents having high expectations of them.

So the inner confidence of setting goals and achieving them really does go back to the nurturing home. It’s where aims are shared and discussed, and initial setbacks not seen as such a bad thing in a well-supported environment where effort is valued over avoiding failure. By giving ourselves goals, we get a road map of where we are heading and the best way there. But beginning the year with small, achievable targets might be advisable if we don’t want to be counted among the 25% of people who give up on their resolutions after just a week!

Happy Homes, Happy Society?

We are about to launch our next international Conference: Happy Homes, Happy Society? to be held in London 12th -13th November 2020. This will be our fifth conference and we are very excited about the focus, which this time is on Happiness and the contribution that domestic life makes to the wellbeing –“happiness”- of wider society in a time of social changes.

There is a clear public as well as academic and professional engagement with this topic. Happiness indices and surveys at both popular and research levels are a current trend in monitoring and improving individual and societal wellbeing. At HRF we see an equally clear link between this and the attitudes and activities fostered in stable homes and a further link to how housing policies and practice and the new SMART technologies contribute to the home’s role in this wellbeing.

Next week, we will be launching a Call for Papers, so we would love to reach all those researchers whose work relates in some way to the home. Many disciplines from architecture to social sciences and from art history to town planning have vital contributions to make to this discussion. On our website, you will find summaries and papers that have been presented on topics relating to the home at our previous conferences.

Happy Homes, Happy Society? will have two main strands:

1.How is happiness/wellbeing linked to activities of the home? What are the key indicators for happy homes and what is the wider social benefit of happy people?

2.New technologies: Housing and Connecting. How do new trends in architecture and planning and the new digital technologies allow for maximum opportunities for those home activities and connections that lead to greater individual and thereby societal happiness?

We have hundreds of questions that we would love researchers to answer. Here is just a taste of some of the areas we are interested in exploring:

  • Is it possible to establish a series of criteria to consider whether a home is happy or not?
  • Are new technologies and AI developing according to human needs and contributing to people’s happiness?
  • How can we ascertain if the work required in creating a happy home and improving the coexistence of all its members is better performed manually or by machines?
  • Home and its role in children’s happiness. Why is this important?
  • Attitudes in the home that contribute to the happiness of its members
  • Poverty and happiness in the home: what is the relationship?
  • Unstructured families and happiness at the home
  • The relationship between happiness in the current home and that of the parents or previous generations
  • The elderly as “creators” of happiness for children and young people
  • How much do the material conditions of the home contribute to well-being?
  • How SMART technologies contribute to (or make difficult) happiness in the home?
  • Which housing schemes/policies best promote happiness/connectedness?
  • Why do we want to grow old in the home? How is this best achieved?

We hope that this gives you a good “snap-shot” introduction to our conference Happy Homes, Happy Society? and that all of you reading this post who may have questions about the relationship between Happy Homes and a Happy Society, will send them to us and help us in the promotion of the Call for Papers. We are looking for researchers from all over the world, perhaps that means you, or you know of someone worth contacting? Please keep us and them posted. Much more information in later posts, so please, “Watch this Space!”

Spring Clean!

KondoMarieThe web and the wider media are full at the moment of encouragements to declutter our homes, our minds and our lives. Marie Kondo’s new TV series is gaining as great a following as her books. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo now on Netflix shows Marie Kondo “sparking joy” and sharing the KonMari approach to keeping homes and lives under control.  She has some very useful and thoughtful tips on how to tackle the “stuff” that surrounds us and makes coming home more of a groan than a sigh of delight. Underpinning her system and the message of the TV series is that there is a link between tidy well-managed homes and healthier emotional and personal lives.

Some people have reacted to this message by accusing it as being overly-simplistic: “You cannot just tidy away the hurts and pains with the laundry.” Ms Kondo’s message is more nuanced than that though. She has noticed, practised and is now sharing her belief, that putting in the right place the things we can control gives us some “head-space” and time for the trickier things that get in our way.

Nobody is suggesting that a perfect airing cupboard will bring a perfect family life. It is true however that having some order and method in living together can lead to a calmer and less stressful home. If only that there might be more time to talk to your partner, teenager, toddler if less time was spent dealing with their things.

Another part of this trend is seen in the new urge for cleaning our homes. A decade ago we were asked “How Clean is your house?” by that Marigold-wielding dynamic duo Aggie MacKenzie and Kim Woodburn. Now it is 28 year old Sophie Hinchliffe “Mrs Hinch” who has taken social media by storm with her cleaning hacks, most notably running a squeegee over your carpets to see what the hoover missed.

A quick read of her Instagram following suggests that her those who make up “Hinch’s Army” are the same age – young women who are discovering the joys of deep-cleaning their homes and sharing their tips with others. There is also a strong implication that taking control of cleaning has led to better control in other areas of life. Sophie Hinchliffe has made plain in her interviews that she suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and that cleaning and caring for her home and husband have helped her to manage these.

A new broom is sweeping through the old ideas that cleaning and home-management are out-dated drudgeries. The new emphasis is on the pleasure and benefits of paying attention to these areas of our lives. The real message here is that our home environments are vital to our wellbeing. This spring may not see us turning out every cupboard and hoovering the loft, but it should encourage us to see how caring better for our homes translates into caring better for ourselves and our families. Time to spring clean our ideas as well as our homes!