by: Susan Hopkins, Ed. D., Executive Director
The issues of bullying and safety in schools are a serious problem. Despite the fact that over 47% of Canadian parents report having a child that was a victim of bullying & Alberta youth report bullying as one of the most significant problems they face today, 1 in 3 adults in Alberta think that bullying is a normal part of growing up. With this in mind, this year we at Safe and Caring are using National Bullying Awareness Week (November 16-22) as an opportunity to change the dialogue around bullying. To refocus our attentions and efforts on how we can reduce bullying by helping our children and youth feel safe and cared for.
Bullying is not a natural social behaviour, nor should it be an accepted part of growing up. When children and youth act out against their peers, this is a result, in part, of external factors and experiences that have blocked their natural social instincts. Children and youth are naturally predisposed to be caring. This is not just a nice thought, it’s science. We are all hardwired for empathy and to care about one another. So why is “caring” so natural for some children and youth and so seemingly absent in others? If a child is not experiencing empathy and demonstrating caring relationships, we can change the conversation from “what can I teach this child” to “what is blocking this natural process” to find new solutions.
Dr. Stuart Shanker, our keynote speaker for the Alberta Safe and Caring Schools Forum on November 24th in Edmonton, argues that the answers lie in the heightened stress reactivity of a child and that in his experience, when the stress on a child is reduced and the child is gradually taught to reduce stressors for himself, empathy naturally emerges.
As we move towards National Bullying Awareness Week, we invite you to listen to the stories of children and youth that have experienced or participated in bullying, to reflect on and reexamine what exactly the words “safe,” “caring” and “bullying” mean to you, and to find ways to help our next generation flourish.
This article appeared in our November 2014 News Bulletin. Click here to read the rest of the bulletin!