GUEST POST: Using your WITS – Creating responsive communities for the prevention of peer victimization

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Guest Post by: Paweena Sukhawathanakul, University of Victoria

It takes a community to prevent bullying and promote healthy relationships. The WITS Programs unites schools, families, and communities to create responsive environments that help elementary school children deal with bullying and peer victimization. The WITS acronym stands for “Walk away, Ignore, Talk it out, and Seek help.” The program provides younger children with developmentally appropriate, interpersonal negotiation strategies for handling peer conflicts. ‘Using your WITS’ also becomes a common language that can be used by both children and adults within the school, home, and community. By targeting multiple support systems in the child’s context, the goal of WITS is to create safe environments that speak with a uniform voice to promote positive conflict resolution strategies among children.

The WITS Programs are literacy-based and include a list of children’s books accompanied by lesson plans. Classroom and school activities integrate WITS messages with curricula in language arts, social studies, health, and personal planning. Curricula and activities encourage discussions with children about peer victimization and WITS strategies. The program is also highly accessible and low cost. Teachers and community leaders (e.g., RCMP officers, emergency services personnel, elders, athletes, and other community role models) can access program materials and complete an accredited, 90-minute training module online at no cost. The program also has additional resources that reach out to community leaders, parents, and children.

The WITS Programs have been evaluated in two longitudinal studies and findings provide evidence for the effectiveness of the programs in reducing peer victimization and enhancing social responsibility among elementary school children. Over 500 schools across Canada have adopted WITS and a nationwide evaluation of the program is currently underway.

WITS Badges are distributed to all new WITS Special Constables during the Swearing-In Ceremony. Photo courtesy of witsprogram.ca

WITS Badges are distributed to all new WITS Special Constables during the Swearing-In Ceremony. Photo courtesy of witsprogram.ca

So how can you get involved with WITS?

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