The Children's Princess
The Duchess of Cambridge is leading the way in child mental health, becoming a stable figure for the next generations to find comfort in.
JUNE 18th, 2020
here is no denying that it has been a confusing and anxious time for most people as we navigate the ensuing pandemic. With a lack of clarity and mixed messaging from the government, the public have found themselves looking to others for leadership, warmth and familiarity. It is therefore no surprise that The Royal Family has become a source of comfort for many. Yet for one group of society – perhaps our most exposed to the changing landscape of lockdown – one royal in particular has led the way.
For children across the UK, ever since the classrooms closed, their education has taken an almighty hit. Whilst those whose parents are keyworkers remained in class; the vast majority have taken to home-schooling. With this has come worry, concern and stress from teachers, parents and even children. Those feelings are felt no differently than by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who are currently self-isolating in Anmer Hall, Norfolk.
With three children under the age of eight, the Cambridge’s have spoken about the challenges of educating their two eldest, George and Charlotte, whilst trying to keep their youngest, little Louis, entertained too. These human confessions have been deeply endearing to the public, but it is the Duchess who has pulled upon her skills as a mother and children’s mental health advocate, to bring some relief and ease to families up and down the country.
Today, Kate led the Oak National Academy Assembly, with the theme emphasising the importance of kindness. She later spoke to pupils at Waterloo Primary Academy in Blackpool, asking them about their own experiences of kindness and helping others. The pre-recorded message, which aired at 10.00am this morning, was universally praised for its significance and topic, but also underlined the impressive skills the Duchess has attained throughout her time as a royal.
From watching the video, and effectively many of Kate’s recent engagements over the last few years, the future Princess of Wales seems to come alive when around children – and so do they around her. With her exemplary abilities to engage in conversation with youngsters, ensuring they are comfortable in her presence, it is of no surprise that professionals are impressed with the Duchess of Cambridge. So enamoured by Kate, many leading figures in child development research have described her as ‘the most important woman in the world’.
To some, that may be a bold statement to make, but when analysing the Duchess’ work, it really isn’t. Here is a woman, from an ordinary, middle-class background who has since become one of the most influential public figures on Earth. With many social issues facing communities globally, it speaks volumes about Kate’s character and perception of the world that ensuring our children are physically and mentally healthy is vital to a more balanced and mentally well society. She understands that change, in this instance, trickles up, not down; that the classroom is a greater source of knowledge than a lecture hall. For those who work within the child development sector, it is a huge contentment that they have such a big hitter on their side.
For some, Kate’s interest in children’s mental health has risen from her own knowledge of becoming a mother. For others, it stems back further into the Duchess’ own childhood, specifically her own experience with bullying.
The then 13-year-old Kate Middleton suffered vicious and brutal intimidation at school. Taunts over her height, her quiet demeanour, and that her reputed ‘niceness’ was “too good to be true”, had a profound effect on her. Classmates would hide Kate’s books, call her names and would move to another table if the future royal would sit with them. So bad was the bullying that her parents eventually pulled Kate from the school altogether.
This early brush with mistreatment – like most who have experienced its sting – never truly leaves you. For the Duchess of Cambridge, though she isn’t defined by the bullying, it set her on a path to ensure she can combat it for other children.
Shortly after her marriage to Prince William, Kate backed an anti-bullying campaign under The Royal Foundation charity. Beatbullying’s research was said to have related to the Duchess and her own experiences. Through their work she saw a way to navigate the treacherous waters of bullying, though what spiked Kate’s call to action was their 2010 report on Child Mental Health.
The report stated that services were vastly underfunded and underrepresented in the public realm. More chillingly, it concluded that if mental health wasn’t taken seriously as in the same vain as physical, the UK could well expect its next generation to face irreversible harm to mental wellness. This report is believed to have been the catalyst that sparked the Duchess of Cambridge’s fascination with understanding the complexity of mental health, and led to the national and international conversation we are living through today.
From acorns grow Oak Trees, and for Kate we have seen her flourishing professionalism with early years development. Her 5 Big Questions survey launched earlier this year, has become one of the biggest surveys ever conducted. She hopes that the results will provide professionals – as well as herself – a clear trajectory on where parents and teachers feel the national focus needs to be.
What is perhaps most remarkable about the Duchess’ survey, isn’t its size but accessibility. For so many parents, years of feeling unheard by those in power, has had a profound effect. Through 5 Big Questions and Kate’s other work, she is leading the charge to finally begin to burst that toxic bubble. Here is a future Queen prepared to listen, to engage in a conversation and allow those from all backgrounds to determine the direction of her work. It is the perfect amalgamation of traditional royal engagement with the acorns of modern monarchy. Inevitably mighty oaks will grow which will root themselves through the Duchess' royal work for decades.
From her own personal childhood, Kate is shaping the early years of her own children. She understands – as does William – that George, Charlotte and Louis will have anything but a completely normal upbringing. Yet that uniqueness will not be an incentive set by the Cambridge’s. Take away the palaces, privilege and pomp, Kate’s children live as any other. It is clear to see they are loved, healthy and behave as any other child. It is a testament to the Duchess of Cambridge that ‘normality’ can be achieved within the gilded cage of royalty.
In these uncertain times, children are needing stability more than ever. With such toxicity and violence on display, kindness is in short supply. The Duchess of Cambridge’s message to the nation’s children was one which hits harder, because we have never needed to hear it more. But what perhaps endears Kate’s kindness campaign to all of us, whether young or old, is that it is accessible to everyone and anyone. The Duchess of Cambridge is a royal bruised by injustice of childhood bullying, though has taken that trauma and moulded it into change – necessary change. For many children, she has become much more than a Duchess. There is a feeling that she is their friend and champion. Put simply, she is ‘The Children’s Princess’.
You can learn more about the Oak National Academy here.
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