Parenting

How kid-friendly is Canada?

It's the Olympics of child-rearing: a list of the top 10 nations to raise a family.

Photo: Photolyric/iStockphoto

The latest top 10 list circulating the online parenting world  was all about the best countries for kids to grow up.  Yes, Canada made the cut, coming in at a respectable sixth place. Japan snagged the number one spot, Spain came in second and Germany won bronze.

1. Japan
2. Spain
3. Germany
4. Italy
5. France
6. Canada
7. Switzerland
8. Norway
9. U.K.
10. The Netherlands

The numbers were crunched by Save the Children, an organization devoted to children’s welfare world-wide. They used the Child Development Index, a study that that looks at three criteria: how likely children are NOT to enroll in school, the number of underweight kids in that country, and — this is a sad one — the chances a child will die before his or her fifth birthday. The lower a country scores on all three factors, the more “child-friendly” it is.

Deciding where to raise our children seems to be a topic we’ve all been thinking about a lot lately. Here in Toronto, it was all about the city versus the suburbs. And the terrible events last week in Colorado have a lot of parents across North America thinking about gun laws, cultures of violence and where their kids will be safest.

After a trip to France earlier this summer, I wrote about cultural differences when it comes to childbirth and pregnancy. Or maybe it’s just the summer Olympics — only a few days away now — that has us all thinking globally (and fending off our own wanderlust).

Notably, the United States, where I grew up, didn’t even make the list. And I’m not surprised. I’ve lived in Canada for more than five years now, and when my American friends and family ask if I think about “coming home,” I have to break it to them: I don’t really want to.

I’m still a proud ex-pat; I loved growing up in rural New England, and my childhood was idyllic. My parents raised me in the countryside so I could run around on a few acres of woods and meadow. I was lucky to go to great public schools, and our small-town community didn’t struggle with guns or gangs. But Canada is the hands-down winner when it comes to healthy families and raising children.

It’s definitely a much better place to be a mom. To me, the maternity leave differences (a full year versus less than six weeks) are a huge deal. My American friends are incredulous when I tell them Canadian women have a full year of government assistance.

Health care is another one. As an immigrant who works in a creative field, health care that isn’t determined by your employer is really, really important to me — I think access to health care is a basic human right. During my first two years in Canada, I received health care when I was a freelancer, and even as an unpaid intern. In the U.S. I was going broke paying for basic health insurance that was almost as pricey as my monthly rent.

So while I think Canadians and Americans share a lot of very similar values, I still think Canada has a better quality of life for everyone. And I fully plan on staying put.  

If you could pick anywhere in the world, where would you want to raise your kids?

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