Help Your Child With…

 We’ve put together a list of common issues that parents can help their children with. Click each one to learn more!


+ Cyber Safety

Computers and Internet access are part of our children’s lives. We need to find ways to make their journeys onto the Web as safe as possible. There are many benefits to using the Internet, just as there are dangers. Awareness and some simple rules will help protect your child from many concerns, including online bullying.

  1. Keep the computer in a place where adults have frequent contact. Avoid computers in the bedroom or remote office. When possible you should be able to see the computer screen and monitor what is happening.
  2. Limited computer time. As we are reminded again and again, this generation of children are too fat and too sedentary. Have a purpose for using the computer such as research or typing a report or story.
  3. Generate computer rules as a family. This might include what to do if they encounter offensive, pornographic or racist materials on the computer.
  4. Teach your children the rule: Backspace, leave and tell. If they encounter material that makes them feel frightened, hurt or shocked, they press the back space key to take them out of the site, then leave and tell an adult. If the site won’t shut down, the child should leave and tell.
  5. If your child is being bullied over the Internet – keep the e-mails (or in some cases, the website address). Don’t trash the offending e-mail in anger. Keep it, print it and take it to your child’s school. Do not reply to the e-mail.
  6. Go on-line with your children. Have them show you their favourite website and show you around. Show them your favourite site or one related to an interest they have or a topic they are studying at school.
  7. Go on-line together and plan a trip to anywhere in the world. Show your children how to search safely on the Internet while finding out all about a country or location they’d like to visit someday.

Your child’s school and/or board should have an Internet safety policy, which all students and parents should sign before going on-line. The policy looks at acceptable use, unacceptable use and should touch on bullying using e-mail and the Internet. If your school does not have a policy, work with administration to draft one. The policy should consider, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Role model acceptable Internet use. Show children how to get out of an inappropriate site and how to report the site. Show them safe ways to search for information and how to use critical thinking to decide if they want to explore a site.
  2. Give them various search engines that are safer and ensure they will find sites suited to their age and purpose rather than those catering to adult interests.
  3. Misinformation on the net: Take children into sites that have misinformation or badly written information. Yahooligans has an area of their site dedicated to this. Show children how using the search button on their browser will bring up commercial sites that companies pay to have appear first in a search even though it is not a direct match to their search parameters. Help them become critical users of the Internet by encouraging them to ask questions about the relevance, reliability, neutrality and truthfulness of the information they encounter on a site.

+ Taking a Stand

Children do need to learn to stand up for themselves, especially if the issue is bullying, but as a parent you need to recognize when they can solve the problem on their own and when you need to step in and support them. If the bullying is infrequent, your child might be able to address the issue themselves. If the bullying is on-going and/or results in your child feeling worthless or unhappy then you must report the bullying to the school and work with them to address the situation.

  • Teach your child to take a stand. This doesn’t mean retaliating but being strong and assertive. Practice together how to tell the person who is bullying to stop. This could include learning about:

    • Body language – stand tall, eyes up, arms open, serious expression
    • Voice – clear, short messages, practice what you’ll say
    • Message – tell them to stop, tell them why, use “I” messages such as “I feel embarrassed when you call me names”
    • Action – walk away, find a positive crowd, seek an adult.
  • Show your child when to walk (or run) away. Let them know that physical attacks or a threat of physical attack means they should leave the area and not engage the person bullying them. Always seek adult help.
  • Teach your child to (safely) take a stand against peers who bully others. Talk about times you were a bystander and helped someone in need. Let them know it’s not okay to stand and watch. As a bystander they should first determine the safety of the situation and then determine the appropriate action:

    • Walk away – this reduces the power of the person who is bullying
    • Talk to the person being bullied – invite them to join you
    • Stop the bullying behaviour – intervene (if safe) on behalf of the person being bullied
    • Go for help – if the situation is dangerous or you are uncertain or afraid

+ Loneliness

Many children experience times when they are lonely. As a parent you need to assess what is causing this feeling. Feeling lonely is a normal part of growing up, but prolonged feelings of loneliness can be detrimental to your child. Ask yourself the following questions and try some of the activity suggestions:

  • Is my child lonely, or frequently alone by choice?
    • Some children are more solitary and serious, preferring to spend time by themselves and only occasionally with one or two friends.
  • Is my child complaining of loneliness or showing symptoms of loneliness, or do I just assume they are lonely because they are alone?
    • Sometimes our personalities do not match our children’s personalities. What we may consider loneliness they may consider a chance to sit and think. Talk to your child to determine if feelings of sadness and loneliness exist before you intervene.
  • Has there been some change in my child’s life that would account for the loneliness?
    • Have you recently moved? Did a best friend move away? Has there been a school or class change? Did a new student arrive at school? Often a change can result in loneliness. Your child’s friend might have moved or a new student has come to the school and become very friendly with your child’s best friend.
  • Is my child’s loneliness the result of bullying?
    • Children who are isolated and humiliated by other children who bully often feel overwhelming loneliness. Share time and conversation with your child. Has anything changed? If your child seems happy and just alone, you might consider finding an activity that you both enjoy and inviting a like-minded child to join you. If your child is unhappy, it is important to discover the reason. Having someone who takes the time to talk to him/her can help.

Activities you can do with your children to deal with loneliness:

  • Play “What if” games to assist and encourage problem solving. Ask your child “what would you do if this happened?” Then make up possible scenarios that could lead to isolation and loneliness. Here are some examples:

    • What would you do if one of the kids in your class started calling you a mean nickname?
    • What would you do if someone made you look stupid and everyone laughed?
    • What would you do if your friend decided to be friends with someone else and wouldn’t talk to you anymore?
  • Plan a small party together. Invite a few friends to spend some time with your child. Joining a new activity or sport will also provide new opportunities to meet people.

  • Read books together, and suggest books for your child to read. Some good examples are Looking for X and The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis, and Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. For younger readers, consider Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus, or Oh the Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss. Or check with your school librarian for other suggestions for books to read together.
    • Talk about the emotions and feelings in the story. Help your child name and describe the various emotions experienced by the characters. The main focus in many books and novels is on emotions and how the characters are dealing with them.

If the issue is bullying, it is very important that you adequately and safely address it. Your child may be nervous about involving you in the problem for fear it might make things worse. Talk to your son or daughter about finding a friend in whom they can trust. Talk to the school. Make a plan together that safely addresses the problem. Solicit the help of the classroom teacher. They often have a different perspective on what is happening. Through changes in seating and encouragement to join extra curricular activities, the teacher can support your child as they develop friendships. With issues of bullying they can ensure your child is safe and deal immediately with any problems that occur.

Set goals with your child. If there is an obvious reason for the loneliness, suggest taking small steps to change the situation. Support efforts to make new friends at school or leave behind a friendship that is no longer working.

Teach your child that action towards a goal will help to establish new friendships and eliminate much of the feelings of loneliness.

+ Recess Troubles

Recess can be a time when bullying occurs due to the unstructured nature of the time. Here are some suggestions to deal with recess problems:

  1. Don’t send your child to school with the latest “must have” or expensive toys or gadgets. Most schools ask that you not bring them. Unfortunately, such items often encourage theft and bullying.
  2. Teach your child games to play at recess. If you don’t have any new games to teach them, go to the library. There are many books that explore games from around the world. If possible, volunteer at your child’s school and offer to teach the games to a group of students leaders.
  3. Around the dinner table or in the car, talk to your children about school. Ask about recess time. Find out who they play with and what games they play. Conversation is the key to understanding your children’s life at school and how they deal with issues such as bullying at recess. We recommend that you not ask ‘What did you do today?’ or ‘Did you have fun?’ The answer is often a “nothing” or a shrug. Instead ask specific questions. Go on-line to your province’s education ministry website and find out about the curriculum your child will study. Read the newsletters that come home, check out the school’s website or ask the teacher. Ask questions related to themes, skills and books your children are reading. If your school is involved in a whole-school anti-bullying program or social skills program, ask your children what they are learning. Learn how these new skills are being applied. Once children are used to sharing every day about the school day, include questions about bullying – what they see and how they deal with it.

+ Ratting vs Reporting

Teach your child the difference between ratting and reporting. Rating is “telling on” someone or “tattling” to simply get them in trouble and it is not okay. However, reporting, or telling someone in a position of authority about dangerous or mean behaviour to get help and to make the behaviour stop is. This is a particularly important message to convey in households with more than one child, in which, as siblings will do, there is fighting between them. You will build trust and open the doors of communication with your children when you take the time to really listen. It is especially important when one of your children is truly upset by something their brother or sister is doing. If they know you will listen, then they will be more likely come to you with their school problems for support and advice.

Examine your beliefs. Did you come from a schoolyard where no-one “ratted” on anyone else? Challenge that belief and talk with your child about how your childhood was and how we must all change our attitudes.

+ Staying Safe on the Way Home

Often, as parents, we find it difficult to ‘let our children go’ and allow them go out into the world unsupervised (i.e. walk to school or a friend’s house). We tend to protect our children by continuing to drive them to and from school play dates or “holding their hands” the whole way even when they could safely walk with a group of children or with an adult walking with them/ watching from a distance.

While the age at which we or our children are comfortable walking without an adult will vary from parent to parent and child to child, it is important that we educate or “street proof” our children for unsupervised situations as early as is possible. Obviously we wouldn’t send small children out on their own, but equipping them with street smarts early will help them cope if they accidentally become separated from you. By the time they are ready to be unsupervised they will have a firm understanding of how to stay safe while gaining some independence.

Here are some tips you can incorporate into your own set of “street smarts” ground rules:

  1. Establish a walking group to and from your child’s school by including other children who live near-by. The group can then walk to and from school together with a parent walking with them or watching from a distance.
  2. If you child is going to walk somewhere with other children without adult supervision, map out a route together beforehand and make it clear that your child is to follow that route.
  3. If your child is walking to a friend’s house, have the children phone you upon arrival.
  4. Provide your child with a few phone numbers of neighbours, friends or family members to call if you are unavailable and they need support.
  5. If you have older children who are coming home to an unsupervised home (either on a regular or occasional basis), be clear about the time they are expected to be home and have them check in with you when they arrive. Establish clear expectations for what will happen if they want to stay late at school or visit friends. While they are alone, make it clear that they are not to answer the door.
  6. Talk to your children frequently about their trip to and from school. Monitor for signs of fear. Are they asking to leave very early, or very late? Do they suddenly begin taking a different route? 7.If possible, try to be at home after school occasionally. Not only will you confirm who walks home with your children, they may appreciate you coming home early to spend time with them.

+ Accepting Differences

On a daily basis, we can help our children accept those who are different from ourselves.

  1. TV/magazines – talk with your child about the stereotypes on TV and in magazines. When you are out on everyday errands, talk about the different people you see. Challenge the stereotypes you or your children may hold.
  2. Encourage positive “self talk”. If your child is different in some way that could contribute to bullying – teach her to speak positively to herself. Write a list of good qualities about your child. Say the quality and have him say it back. When your children do need disciplining, always end on a positive note talking about a good quality they possess. Have them state what they did wrong as well as something positive that will help them do better in the future.

+ Respect & Kindness

We all want our children to be respectful and kind, however, in the busy day to day of our lives these two qualities are often dropped in our mad rush to get through the day. Teach your children the importance of respect and kindness. Try to model this behaviour with the people in your life, including your children. Actively seeking out opportunities to act in respectful ways toward our children, spouse, friends, neighbours and strangers we meet, will go a long way to ensuring our children act in the same way.

  1. Dealing with disrespect – Tell your children (in the heat of the moment) that although you feel like yelling or saying something nasty in response to their disrespect or unkindness, you are not going to do it. Then walk away until you are cooled down or tell them calmly and respectfully what you would like them to do. Later, when everyone is calm discuss what happened and why you acted the way you did.
  2. Thumbs Up! At dinner or at bedtime ask your children to tell you about one thing they did that deserves a “thumbs up”. Perhaps they were kind to someone at school or they showed respect to someone who was bugging them. Share your experiences as well and let your children give you a “thumbs up” too!
  3. Random Acts of Kindness – Challenge your children to commit a random act of kindness during the day. They should try not to let the person know they did it or if it is an act that is seen, not make a big deal of it. Each day, casually talk with your children about your random act of kindness. It might be letting someone in front of you in line at the grocery store or waving someone in during traffic. Talk to your child about what you did and how it made you feel, as well as how you think the recipient felt.

+ Feelings

Feelings are often difficult for children to describe, especially for our sons. It is our responsibility to help them, from a very young age, to label and deal with their feelings age appropriately.

Although we might have grown up in a family that didn’t share or deal with feelings, we know that it is important to deal with feelings in the open. As adults, we can label our feelings and vocalize how we will deal with the negative feelings we are experiencing. We can also name our positive feelings which give our children a broader range of “feeling” words from which to choose.

  1. Help young children label their feelings. Suggest a feeling to them by saying, “I think you might be feeling (sad, disappointed) because I can’t read with you right now. Am I right or are you feeling something else?” When you don’t try to tell your children how they feel, you are honouring their feelings, while at the same time expanding the ways they can describe their many feelings. Label your own feelings as well. “I’m feeling calm and peaceful listening to this music with you.” Or “I feel pleased that we put that difficult puzzle together.”
  2. As your children get older, you might want to ask them how they are feeling. Try not to put words into their mouths by pre-identifying feelings you see but rather label the feeling in another way. If your child says they are “mad”, tell them you understand how they must be angry and perhaps they are also feeling disappointed at missing the game or sadness at a friend moving away. They might tell you they are just mad but by giving a range of emotions around a particular event, children will begin to develop a repertoire of expressions to help them better identify and label their feelings.
  3. Look through magazines, newspapers and books. Have children label the emotions they see on the faces of the people in the pictures. Create a collage of feelings. Each time you find a new emotion, cut it out, label it, and add it to the collage.
  4. Books examine feelings from every angle. Humour is often a great way to open up a conversation about a difficult feeling. Ask your librarian to help you find terrific picture books like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst or the beginning chapter book series by Barbara Park entitled Junie B. Jones. Children will enjoy reading about Alexander’s terrible day or Junie’s determined and somewhat obnoxious behaviour that often gets her into trouble. You can then help your children make connections to their own lives and the times they’ve acted and felt the same way as the character.

+ The New School Year

The new school year is an exciting time for children; new beginnings, a new teacher, perhaps some new friends. However, it can also be a difficult time of year for many reasons. Children may be a bit nervous, wondering if their old friends will still be their friends or if they’ll be able to do the work at the next grade level. But other children have even more reason to feel nervous and afraid. They may be facing unresolved situations from the previous school year – a situation that hasn’t improved over the summer – such as bullying or struggling academically at school. As a parent, you can do a great deal to help support your child during this transitional time of year.

  1. Create a scrapbook for the coming school year. It could have pockets or be a simple booklet to paste in pictures and write ideas. Have them label the headings and talk about what they think might happen during the year. Some headings might be: My First Day, Great Field Trips, My Best Effort, Friends, Sports and Activities, Memorable Moments, My Teacher(s).
  2. As a parent with a child struggling in school, whether it be socially and/or academically, you may be hoping that a new year will suddenly change everything, but it rarely does. If your child has been bullied in the past school year, ask to meet with your child’s teacher, support personnel or administration to help develop an entry plan to help settle your child into school in the first month. Discuss what happened the previous year and ensure steps remain in place to deal with the bullying. Even if the previous year was highly successful check in with the school to ensure things are still in place.
  3. Have a conversation with your child a week or so before the first day of school. Ask them: what are 2 things they are looking forward to, 2 things they’re a bit nervous about, and 2 goals they want to set for themselves to help tackle their anxiety.
  4. Begin a new tradition at the start of September. Pick a time during the day – driving in the car or at dinner – to talk about the school day. Ask your child to talk about one thing they would keep from the day and one thing they’d throw away. Share your thoughts with your child as well, such as “Today I’d keep the great meeting where we got a lot accomplished but I’d throw away the argument I had with someone who cut me off in traffic. Next time I’d just smile and let them in.”