The overarching goal driving our efforts to work collaboratively with parents and caregivers is to facilitate the wellbeing of our students. Parents and caregivers can fulfill this function when they are able to support their children through a bullying situation, and reinforce (in various ways and at various levels) the values, vision and attitudes at the root of a safe and inclusive school culture at home and at school.
In order to play this role and contribute to this goal, parents and caregivers need information and training. They need to learn about a wide range of issues and acquire a wide range of skills directly related to ensuring their children’s safety and wellbeing.
Parents and caregivers need opportunities to learn about their children’s experiences growing up in contemporary society. Social media has transformed young people’s experiences of, and vulnerability to, bullying, adult abuse and exploitation, and the development of their self-esteem. Many parents and guardians are not fully aware of this profound cultural shift. They need help to understand the level of importance of social media the lives of children and teens.
Parents and caregivers also need opportunities to learn about suicide, its link to bullying and inequity, and its prevention. Though many may deny and distance themselves from such issues, given the stigma attached to them, all adults in our school communities need skills and information enabling us to recognize the indicators and prevent suicide. We need to be aware of the additional vulnerability to suicide of marginalized students, such as those who are LGBT and those who are coming out.
Schools can equip parents and caregivers to collaborate in preventing bullying, inequity and exclusion by providing educational opportunities in areas such as:
- bullying and inequity: forms, indicators, impact, dynamics;
- role of witnesses in a bullying dynamic;
- bullying using technology;
- definitions of bullying, clarifying: teasing versus bullying, conflict versus bullying;
- childhood and adolescent development: physical, sexual, emotional;
- respect for diversity, including sexual, gender-based and ethnocultural diversity;
- mental health in children and teens;
- suicide: indicators, causes, prevention.
Parents and caregivers also need opportunities to acquire the skills necessary to support their children through a bullying situation, such as:
- skills and strategies for supporting their children who are perceived as different in some way, for example students who: are LGBT, have a learning disability, have a physical or intellectual disability;
- communication skills: asking questions, expressing empathy;
- empowerment listening;
- strategies for developing healthy self-esteem in their children;
- skills and tools to facilitate their children’s empowerment.
Teachers, administrators and all school staff need training and skills as well to help them develop collaborative partnerships with parents and guardians. Supportive training and skill building are needed in areas such as:
- empowerment listening and problem-solving;
- healthy communication;
- cultural competency (understanding and respecting cultural differences).