This National School Safety Week, from October 17 to 23, the Canada Safety Council recognizes that schools are communities of children. Children who are mindful of health and safety can have significant influence among their peers, and help to foster healthy school communities.
Children's lifelong value systems are significantly shaped by the role models in their lives. That is why the Canadian Safety Council encourages parents, guardians and educators to emulate healthy lifestyles for their school-aged children. A healthy lifestyle includes getting enough exercise, eating balanced and nutritious meals, and developing healthy relationships.
There are many benefits to exercise. Along with better fitness and strength, active kids often do better in school and socially by having fun playing with friends and learning new skills. Incorporating more exercise into your child's routine can be as easy as going for a walk after supper and stopping at a neighbourhood park to play. Limit recreational screen time to no more than two hours a day and use active transportation such as walking or cycling whenever possible, rather than taking the car or the bus. It's better for the environment and for your health!
As part of a healthy lifestyle, nutrition is very important. Various studies indicate more than four out of 10 Canadian children skip breakfast or do not eat breakfast every day. Skipping breakfast negatively impacts a child's ability to succeed in school, and is a factor in challenges with problem-solving, short-term memory and lack of focus and attention. Eating breakfast improves attention, problem-solving skills, math and logical reasoning. Consistently eating breakfast also combats obesity, hyperactivity and depression in children. Canada's Food Guide offers age-appropriate guidelines for children on serving sizes and the number of servings needed daily from each of the four food groups for healthy growth and development.
Most children have some involvement in bullying as they grow up, either as aggressors or as victims. It is estimated that 10 to 15 per cent of children repeatedly bully others, and 10 to 15 per cent of children are repeatedly bullied. Bullying is a relational problem that arises because of a power imbalance, and it can have profound impacts on children and youth. These include mental and physical health issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders, along with poorer grades in school.
Children do not grow out of bullying on their own. Bullying that begins in elementary school, without intervention, can escalate into cyber-bullying, dating aggression and sexual harassment in the teen years. Sadly, many instances of teen suicide are linked to bullying.
Parents and educators clearly have an important responsibility to support children and youth in developing social skills, respect for themselves and others, social responsibility and good citizenship. Part of this process is helping children comprehend that their actions, words and choices leave a mark on those around them - for better or for worse. In other words, teach children to treat others the same way they themselves would want to be treated.
Bullying thrives in secrecy. Break the silence and talk about bullying.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is model good behaviours in your relationships. Children tend to reflect what they are exposed to.