A school can be many things: a place to learn, a place to grow, a place to socialize with friends. For many, it is a positive and safe environment. Yet, far too commonly, this is not the lived reality of schoolchildren across Canada.
National School Safety Week is October 17 – 23 and the Canada Safety Council would like to remind Canadians that we have a responsibility to protect our youth in schools. According to Public Safety Canada, nearly half of Canadian parents (47%) report that at least one of their children has been a victim of bullying, which is defined as “acts of intentional harm repeated over time in a relationship where an imbalance of power exists.”
While we know that bullying can extend past the schoolyard and into the workplace, the home, and anywhere people gather to live, learn or play, school is frequently the first environment in which a child is subjected to this aggression. The prevalence of the behaviour makes it even more crucial that schools play a leadership role in addressing it early. “A bullied child will often feel isolated, unsafe and alone,” said Gareth Jones, President and CEO of the Canada Safety Council. “As teachers, parents and guardians, we have a responsibility to show them, not just tell them, that we are in their corner.”
Is your child being bullied? Here are a few tips to spot warning signs and to advocate on your child’s behalf.
Signs can include:
- Heightened anxiety, fear
- Lowered self-esteem and interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Unhappiness, irritability, trouble sleeping
- Injuries, including bruising and damage to physical property (if physical).
Tips to parents and guardians:
- Show your child that you’re there for them. Trust is of paramount importance in addressing bullying, and a child will not report any issues to someone they do not trust to support them. Maintaining an open and healthy relationship with your child will help them feel comfortable confiding in you.
- Encourage them to share if they are being bullied. Yes, it can be embarrassing. Or hurtful. But children need to know their feelings are valid and they are not expected to carry this burden by themselves. The quicker they inform the responsible adults in their lives, the quicker help can be provided.
- Do not advise your child to fight back. In such situations, aggression is often met with more aggression and only makes the situation worse. Remember: at its core, bullying is a relationship imbalance. Violence is a less effective mitigation tactic than adult intervention.
- Document everything. Take notes of times, dates and details of incidents as your child reports them. If the bullying is occurring via electronic means, this includes emails, instant messages, text messages and any other evidence of cyberbullying.
- Talk to your child’s school. Bring all documentation and be prepared to sit down and discuss the bullying behaviour. Keep in mind throughout that you are your child’s advocate, their defender, and their voice.
- Bullying prevention is a team effort, a collaboration to create a more level playing field and to support children as they navigate the formative years of their lives. Let us all do our part in showing that respect, kindness and dignity are core values… and that bullies never win.
For more information, please contact: Lewis Smith Manager, National Projects, Canada Safety Council, email@example.com