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file9381273099223.jpgFrom: "Bully-Proofing Our Kids"
by Michele Borba, Ed.D.


1. Listen and gather facts

The first step is often the hardest for parents: listen to your child’s whole story without interrupting. Your goal is to try to figure out what happened, who was involved, where and when the teasing took place, and why your child was teased. Unfortunately, teasing is a part of growing up, but some kids seem to get more than their fair share of insults. If your child appears to be in no immediate danger, keep listening to find out how she reacts to the bullying. By knowing what reaction didn’t stop the bully, you can offer your child a more effective option.


Here are a few:


  • Assert yourself. Teach your child to face the bully by standing tall and using a strong voice. Your child should name the bullying behaviour and tell the aggressor to stop: “That’s teasing. Stop it.” or “Stop making fun of me. It’s mean.”
  • Question the response. Ann Bishop, who teaches violence prevention curriculums, tells her students to respond to an insult with a nondefensive question: “Why would you say that?” or “Why would you want to tell me I am dumb (or fat) and hurt my feelings?”
  • Use “I want.” Communication experts suggest teaching your child to address the bully beginning with “I want” and say firmly what he wants changed: “I want you to leave me alone.” or “I want you to stop  teasing me.”
  • Agree with the teaser. Consider helping your child create a statement agreeing with her teaser. Teaser; “You’re dumb.” Child: “Yeah, but I’m good at it.” or Teaser: “Hey, four eyes.” Child: “You’re right, my eyesight is poor.”
  • Ignore it. Bullies love it when their teasing upsets their victims, so help your child find a way to not let his tormentor get to him. A group of fifth graders told me ways they ignore their teasers: “Pretend they’re invisible,” “Walk away without looking at them,” “Quickly look at something else and laugh,” and “Look completely uninterested."


2. Teach a bully-proofing strategy

What may work with one child may not with another, so it’s best to discuss a range of options and then choose the one or two your child feels most comfortable with.


  • Make Fun of the Teasing. Fred Frankel, author of Good Friends Are Hard to Find suggests victims answer every tease with a reply, but not tease back. The teasing often stops, Frankel says, because the child lets the tormentor know he’s not going to let the teasing get to him (even if it does). Suppose the teaser says, “You’re stupid.” The child says a rehearsed comeback such as: “Really?” Other comebacks could be: “So?,” “You don’t say,” “And your point is?,” or “Thanks for telling me.”


3. Rehearse the strategy with your child

Once you choose a technique, rehearse it together so your child is comfortable trying it. The trick is for your child to deliver it assuredly to the bully-and that takes practice. Explain that though he has the right to feel angry, it’s not okay to let it get out of control. Besides, anger just fuels the bully. Try teaching your child the CALM approach to defueling the tormentor.


  • C - Cool down. When you confront the bully, stay calm and always in control. Don’t let him think he’s getting to you. If you need to calm down, count to twenty slowly inside your head or say to yourself, “Chill out!” And most importantly: tell your child to always get help whenever there is a chance she might be injured.
  • A - Assert yourself. Try the strategy with the bully just like you practiced.
  • L - Look at the teaser straight in the eye. Appear confident, hold your head high and stand tall.
  • M - Mean it! Use a firm, strong voice. Say what you feel, but don’t be insulting, threaten or tease back.

What is Bullying?

Posted by teachontarioteam Jul 24, 2015

iStock_000012129142Small.jpgEvery seven minutes a child is bullied at school, but often parents don't even know their child is a victim because kids are too scared to tell. Therefore, it is up to adults to spot the signs and stop the bullying.


What is bullying?

Bullying can be:

  • physical (e.g.: hitting)
  • emotional (e.g.: name-calling)
  • social (e.g.: spreading false rumours)
  • cyber-based (e.g.: mean text messages)


Today, there is greater understanding of the impact of bullying and how it leads to long-term problems for the child and community. Educational and parenting expert Barbara Coloroso says that bullying is not about anger or conflict but instead it's about contempt for another person.


Bullying has three core elements:

  • humiliation
  • oppression
  • abuse at the hands of one or more peers who have more power than the target.


The most common forms of bullying are name calling and exclusion. Targets are usually smaller than the bully and shy. Boys bully more than girls although girls can be much more malicious. There is a difference between teasing and taunting.


The statistics on bullying:
  • Every seven minutes a child is bullied in the schoolyard.
  • 10% of children endure bullying every day of their lives.
  • 80% of children at school are involved in bullying either as a bully, the one being bullied or a bystander to the bullying.
  • 160,000 students a day in the United States stay home from school for fear of further bullying. The numbers are considered comparable in Canada.


What makes a bully?

That question is harder to answer than it seems. We usually picture a bully as a big mean kid who likes to torture children and small animals. Those bullies do exist but they are few and far between. “It’s so normative and so many kids engage in it that it’s hard to answer what makes a bully,” Tracy Vaillancourt, the Canada Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health and Violence Prevention, says. “What makes one child bully another child? Just being human. Most kids do it at some point in their life. And power corrupts, so many times kids do it because it’s a good way to achieve and maintain popularity.”


What is a bystander?

A bystander is a witness to the bullying who does nothing or eggs the bully on. Bullies love an audience because that’s how they maintain their status and popularity. They want other kids to view them as tough and they derive pleasure from it. Bystanders are considered just as harmful as the bully.


What is indirect bullying?
  • name-calling
  • whispering and note writing campaigns
  • gossip and spreading rumors
  • shunning
  • cyber-bullying


Signs that your child is a target:
  • Your child used to like to go to school but doesn’t anymore.
  • Your child used to be happy and isn’t anymore.
  • Your child does not seem to have any friends. If your child never gets invited to birthday parties there is a problem.



What to tell your kids if they are bullied:
  • It’s not your fault.
  • You're not alone. We will fix this together.
  • Reassure them that there are things they can do but you will do them together.
  • Tell the teacher.
  • Tell a person who cares.


What parents should do:
  • Look at your own behaviour—you set the tone for expectations of treatment. Make sure you walk the walk.
  • Be proactive instead of reactive.
  • Talk to your kids about their friendships. Ask them who they sat beside at lunch and who they played with at recess. Your child’s friendships are just as important as their academic achievements.
  • Some children are bullied by their teachers. If that is the case, schedule a meeting with the teacher and the principal. Teach your children to build healthy relationships.
  • Teach your kids to not be a bystander by just walking away. Bullies love an audience and often they’ll stop if they don’t have one.
  • Listen to the targeted child and let them take part in the resolution to the bullying. They know the situation better than you do.
  • Open your eyes to the fact that your child could be a bully. Be as open to the idea that your child might be the victimizer as you are that they are a victim. You need to send clear messages at home as to your expectations on how people should treat each other.
  • Be aware of the Safe Schools Act and what will happen if your child is a bully.
  • Read "Tips on Dealing with Bullying" for real-world strategies to teach your child.


What the school are doing:
  • Most school boards offer workshops where teachers learn how to recognize the signs of bullying and how to combat bullying in the classroom, hallways and playground.
  • Teachers are communicating with each other on how to deal with aggression in schools.
  • Many schools also have peer mediation programs that encourage students to talk out their problems with their peers.
  • Research into the topic continues at universities and research institutions worldwide.
  • Many researchers and authors are speaking with schools and parent group to combat bullying.
  • Every parent and community member should be able to deal with bullying in their own communities.


You can stop bullying if you stay aware, engaged and treat people with dignity and respect. Your kids will learn from you how people should be treated and won't stand for anything less.

  • “Jack, 9, is often impatient and mean with his four year old sibling.”iStock_000003063200XSmall.jpg
  • “Kevin, 6, always assumes others do everything to him on purpose, and reacts aggressively when it’s usually accidents.”
  • "Alexa, 12, is increasingly disrespectful at home, and defiantly talks back more and more often.”


Do any of these stories sound familiar?


Many parents ask me why children and adolescents seem to have a knack of turning small annoyances into big problems, and if anything can be done to help them grow up.  Until recently, we thought parents just needed to be patient and handle the ups and down of childhood as constructively as possible.


The last decade of research, however, has revealed that the parenting and learning context we provide for young children can actually boost some of their brain development. New conversational methods can be used to skillfully activate relevant brain areas, and increase the likelihood that children will manage their emotions, and think and act in a more mature way. The new and perhaps surprising part is that you don’t necessarily want to have the conversation that teaches your child a lesson at the time of an emotionally loaded incident.


For example, imagine your older child is sitting maliciously on your youngest’s favorite stuffed animal. Since you’ve already asked him twice to leave his sister alone, you find yourself raising your voice and saying “Why in the world are you doing that? Stop right NOW, can’t you see how upset your sister is? What would it be like for you if I sat on your lego construction, huh?...”  We are often tempted to teach a skill during, or right after challenging moments. In my experience working with hundreds of families, parents -  even the ones who are abusive - generally have good intentions but their choice of action does not always have the intended effect.


011373137-little-girl-talking-seriously-.jpgFew parents know that physiologically, when their child experiences intense negative emotions, there is a reduction of blood flow to the more logical and reflective part of the brain (the frontal lobe), and children become less likely to hear and register the crucial life lesson.  Moreover, when adults also become exasperated, children end up having to deal not only with their internal negative emotions but also with those of the adult, when they can’t even handle their own.  As a result, the lesson children do remember is not the one you intended; rather, they conclude that you are mean.

“The brain that generates the poison is the best to find the antidote.” (Beaudoin, 2010). But for your child's brain to find its perfect antidote, it needs to focus on the internal experience of the struggle, and sort things out, instead of focusing on surviving your adult anger.  There are real constructive ways adults can ask children gentle questions which allow them to articulate, explain, explore, think and take mental steps, questions your child can hear in the moment. So you can say things like:


  • “Honey, please stop this. What’s going on with you? Help me understand why you’re doing this.”
  • “I can see that you have a lot of mad feelings right now, and they’re getting you to hurt your sister. How about we take a break and calm ourselves down, then we’ll talk.”


After the storm, an important job begins: relentlessly and purposely observing your child’s behaviours until you notice a glimpse of the very skill you’d like to support.  For example, you can try saying something like: “Hey, if you have the temptation to sit on her favourite stuffy again, and manage to not do it, can you let me know? I’d love to hear about how you control those mad feelings. I’m sure you do it sometimes since it’s not always easy to have a little sister." overprotective_quiz_460x260.jpg


Or with children like Kevin and Alexa above, “It would have been easy to be mad at me today when I picked you up late from school, but you weren’t, and I appreciate your patience."  Noticing a child’s effort offers a truly golden opportunity to boost, articulate, support and develop the child’s burgeoning skills and invisible neural network.


"Children become who they practice to be." (Beaudoin, 2014).  From a brain development standpoint, noticing allows repeating.  It is often more effective to develop a skill contrary to a problem, than to try eliminating the problem directly.




Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, Ph.D., has published numerous professional articles and books, including the internationally popular “SKILL-ionaire in Every Child: Boosting Children’s Socio-Emotional Skills Using the Latest in Brain Research”.

iStock_000022995040Small.jpgDo your kids have the following 7 traits?

  1. Grit;
  2. Self-control;
  3. Social intelligence;
  4. Vitality;
  5. Gratitude;
  6. Curiosity;
  7. Optimism.


These are the key strengths needed to be a successful and happy person, according to Bruce Ferguson, a senior consultant for The Hospital for Sick Children and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.


The traits come from a relatively new branch of psychology, called Positive Psychology, which focuses on what can make normal life more fulfilling, rather than just the treatment of mental illness.


“The core of mental health is knowing who you are,” Ferguson says.


To be successful in school and life, as we all want our children to be, our kids need to be happy. If they aren’t happy, good grades, accomplishments and awards mean nothing. This list gets to the core of what can make or break a person’s mental health.


Ferguson’s list comes from the fuller list of virtues and strengths outlined in the Positive Psychology Character Strengths and Virtues Handbook. Here’s the list:


  1. Wisdom and Knowledge: creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, love of learning, perspective, innovation;
  2. Courage: bravery, persistence, integrity, vitality;
  3. Humanity: love, kindness, social intelligence;
  4. Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership;
  5. Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self-control;
  6. Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humour, spirituality.



Over the March break you might want some suggestions of activities to do with your kids that are both fun and educational. We got some great ideas from our partners at SickKids that families can do together, and are mostly free.


Use the time to get to know the community you live in – the people and the places. Have a plan for every day, but be sure to build in some downtime. After all, it is a break!


Here's a list for the week, in this handy chart.




Why this is important


Welcome Springtime!

Okay, it’s still winter, but don’t let that stop you from bundling up and heading outdoors. Visit a local park and have a small picnic. Bring a bag with you and encourage your kids to pick up items, such as rocks and sticks, to bring home and use for Tuesday’s Junk Box Adventures.

Bring plenty of water to keep you hydrated, and a thermos with soup or a hot beverage to keep warm.

Taking the time to explore the nature around you gives your child a sense of community and sense of belonging as well as an appreciation for the great outdoors.  Playing outside in the fresh air is good exercise and helps reduce stress.


Get ivolved in a neighbourhood clean-up initiative, for example picking up litter in the park, and use this as an opportunity to teach your kids about being environmentally responsible.


Participating in a clean-up initiative helps kids feel pride in their communities, and builds their sense of belonging. It will also promote self-help skills which you can expand on at home.



Junk Box Creations

Use whatever your kids collected on Monday, along with whatever you have in your Junk Box - toilet paper and paper towel rolls (a great way to talk about recycling), glue, paint, construction paper, to make all kinds of creations.

Since you’re home, today may be a great day to make homemade pizzas. Pre-cut peppers, onions, mushrooms, pepperoni and cheese, and allow your kids to make their own. Creative and delicious!

Using the different junk box items in his art creations allows your child to express himself in his own way. This builds your child’s confidence in exploring new ideas, places, and experiences. And encouraging your child to help make the pizzas lets him know you value his work, and builds his sense of independence.


Many community centres offer more programs during March Break as well as more flexible times. Find out what your local community centre is offering this week and take advantage of the skating rink, pool and other resources that may be available.


Participating in programs like free skate or swim is good exercise, fun, social, and allows your child to build these skills which can increase confidence.



Get Reading!

Libraries offer a number of programs during March Break (and they are free!) Check out what your local library is offering – there may be a story time event or a reading by your child’s favourite author. Libraries are also community hubs, so they’re a great place to see other people in your neighbourhood and find out what else is going on.

Water and turkey/chicken/ham sandwiches (whole grain breads and wraps are best) are easy to pack and eat when spending the day out at the library or elsewhere in your community. They’re also a good choice at home.

Libraries have a lot of books to choose from, smart staff who can make appropriate recommendations, and literacy events that are creative and fun. This makes kids more likely to want to learn how to read and write. It’s also a great way for kids to learn how to communicate their interests, and gives parents some tips on how to engage kids in reading at home.


Set up a play date where your child can visit with a friend for the afternoon, and invite that friend over to your place on another day.


Play dates are important for building social skills such as learning to take turns, share, communicate, and show empathy. This is also a chance for your child to interact with her peers in a place she is proud of – her home. And by setting up one play date at home and one away, that means parents get an afternoon off to do something for themselves



Watch a Movie and Role-Play

Sometimes sitting at home enjoying a movie hits the spot. Allow your child to choose an age appropriate movie. Be sure to ask questions during and after the movie, and encourage your child to role-play.

Cucumbers, carrot sticks, cheese and crackers are healthy movie snacks.

Like books, movies can introduce new ideas and lessons about life. But it’s important to follow up by asking questions and engaging in role-play. Encourage your child to act like a favourite character, or come up with different endings to the story. Coming up with alternatives increases your child’s communication and problem-solving skills.


Visiting pet stores is a fun way to see animals that your child may not see often, or ever. Encourage your child to ask the store clerks questions about the animals they seem interested in. Keep the conversation going on the car ride home and at the dinner table.


Pet Stores are like a local zoo where your child gets to see animals they may not see very often. By encouraging conversations about animals, your child begins to think about the needs of other living things, such as food, water, shelter and love!



Spring Planting

Ask your child to help you plant seedlings. Your child can plant the seeds and pack the dirt in small pots to be ready for summer.

Keep hydrated with water or juice, and enjoy snacks like apples and granola bars to keep you energized.

By letting your child help you with the seedlings, he learns that you trust him with tasks, and that builds his confidence and self-esteem. Plus he learns about nature, and the care of living things. He will feel proud that he helped make that plant grow.


Many museums offer reduced rates in the evenings and during holidays. Places such as the ROM in Toronto, Ontario and The Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa, Ontario are just an example of places you can go.


Learning about different people, places and things from different time periods in our history helps build critical thinking skills, empathy, self-awareness, and acceptance of others. And seeing different forms of art, from paintings and drawings, to sculptures and architecture, instills a sense of creativity and thoughtful expression.

IMG_7244.jpgMaking friends is an important part of childhood.


Research shows friendships play a vital role in kids’ learning, relationships and their feelings of belonging and security throughout their lives.


“Friends provide children with social and emotional support,” says Tracy Vaillancourt, a professor and Canada Research Chair for Children’s Mental Health and Violence Prevention at the University of Ottawa.


“(Friendships) also help children develop important cognitive skills,” she says. “In fact, research shows that cognition is socially mediated and that children make notable positive cognitive strides when they interact with peers.”


What Do Kids Learn From Friendship?


“Children learn so much from their friends,” says Vaillancourt. “They learn about social norms, tolerance, and how to regulate their emotions. Diversity in goals, opinions, and behaviour requires negotiation skills which tend to be better developed in children who have friends than in children who are friendless.”


culture_classroom644x362.jpgWhat Can Happen If A Child Doesn’t Have Friends?


“Children who do not have friends tend to fall behind their peers socially (and at times cognitively),” she says. “When you are socially isolated you do not learn about the nuanced politics of the playground. This lack of social knowledge places children at risk for future peer rejection.”


What Are the Warning Signs That Your Child Isn’t Developing Friendships Normally?


“Across all ages, a good warning sign would be the amount of conflict you child has in his/her peer interactions,” she says. “Friendships are about negotiating interests and desires. If your child is rigid and has to have it his/her way without compromise, he/she will likely have peer relationship difficulties. But the opposite is also true. If your child is always acquiescing to his/her peers’ demands, he/she will not be benefiting from the friendship.”


How Can Parents Help Their Child Make/Keep Friends?


  • 3_boys_sitting_250x140.jpgDefine Friendship:
    Remind your children about what makes a good friend - taking turns, trust, mutual interests, acceptance, having fun, says Vaillancourt.
  • Talk to the Teacher:
    If your child is having a hard time making friends at school, Vaillancourt suggests you talk to the teacher to see what he/she can do to help forge friendships."Teachers are important architects of the social landscape of their classroom. They have the power to put kids together and keep them apart.
  • Try A Club or Sport:
    Enrolling your child in a club or sporting activity can help your child make friends. Vaillancourt suggests you discuss any social concerns with the group leader or coach so that he/she can keep an eye on things, and help in a similar way that a teacher can.
  • Create Social Situations:
    Organize play dates or social outings for your child. "The more exposure your child has to other children, the more likely he/she will make a friend," says Vaillancourt.


Gordon Neufeld, a Vancouver-based developmental psychologist and co-author of the book "Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers," says that friendships are important, but not as important as a child's relationship with his or her parents. Hear him explain why in the video below.


file000823844433.jpgHere are some tips to help your kids handle change - courtesy of parenting experts Alyson Schafer and Jennifer Kolari


  • Keep the communication flowing between you and your children - make sure they know what is happening and what is going to happen.

  • Give your kids and yourself plenty of time to absorb and handle the change – don’t hope to avoid conflict by springing a change of plans at the last minute.

  • Write a weekly schedule on a white board - putting all the usual things in one colour and all the unusual events in a different colour.

  • When they're a little older, give them a bit of control over the things that have to get done - negotiate a little.

  • Give your kids a 15-minute window to change tasks, say from playing a video game to having dinner; and check on them when there's 2-3 mins. to go.

  • Encourage them to take age-appropriate risks.

  • Compliment them when they succeed at trying something that scared them and point out how well they handled it.

  • Listen to their fears and acknowledge them, don't just cheerlead them with, "Oh, it'll be fine."

  • How you handle change will be reflected in how they handle change.

  • Seek help if your children start missing out on opportunities because of their fears.

  • The key is to help children build their courage, find the confidence to take risk, or manage change.


                Watch Alyson and Jennifer in conversation on TVO's Your Voice.

stuttering_637x424.jpgOver 11 percent of children by age 4 will be affected by the speech disorder of stuttering.

But with early treatment, understanding, and sometimes just time, most kids recover.

When children are learning how to string words into sentences, it’s very normal for them to struggle with finding the right words. That’s why it’s so hard for parents to spot a problem.

Here are some ways to tell the difference between normal language development and stuttering:

How Do I Know It’s Stuttering?

Stuttering is marked by repetitions of sounds, syllables, or words and with speech blocks or prolonged interruptions between sounds and words. Secondary physical behaviors, such as eye blinking, jaw jerking and head movements may be present.

Not Stuttering:

“Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Can I, can I, can I, have some juice?”

This kind of repetitive behaviour is not stuttering. It is part of normal development.


“Mmmmommy, mmmmommy can I have some juice?”

stuttering_213x177.jpgThe pattern has changed from an easy, effortless, repetitive kind of pattern to one that is effortful. The child is struggling to get the words out instead of just repeating words.

Could It Be Something Else?

Before making a diagnosis, speech pathologists will look to the home environment because certain factors can cause a child to have stuttering-like symptoms. With some changes at home, the symptoms could disappear. Some of these factors are:

  • Fatigue. Is the child sleeping enough?
  • Competition. Is there competition for talking time in the family? If a child who is developing his speech has to compete with older, talkative siblings, they can appear to stutter.
  • Time. Are the parents speaking quickly and rushing the child to talk? If they feel rushed, kids can stumble over their words.


Impact on School


"The child who stutters is often reluctant to participate fully in class, is hesitant to ask for help and often is misinterpreted by teachers as not knowing the academic material," says Dr. Robert Kroll, Director of the stuttering program at The Speech and Stuttering Institute in Toronto. "Moreover, studies have shown that these children are more at risk for academic, social and emotional problems as they progress through school."

What Do I Do If I Think It's Stuttering?

If your child is showing early signs of stuttering, the good news is that 80 percent of kids will eventually stop stuttering within four years, either through therapy or by naturally growing out of it. To help your child, the best place to start is your province’s preschool speech and language program. Many are fully funded up to age 5. It’s never too early to make that phone call. And it's never too late to get help either.

What Causes Stuttering?

The cause of stuttering is still unclear but research is helping to clear up some popular myths.

For instance, for years people have thought that stuttering is the result of a psychological problem. Not true.

“There’s certainly a psychological component to the stuttering,” says Kroll. “When something is wrong with you and makes you different, there’s going to be a psychology attached to that. But the whole psychology about stuttering arises as a result of the stuttering."

In fact, brain scans reveal key differences in the brains of people who stutter. “Not only our research, but other studies from other teams, has pointed to significant differences in the brain processing and in neuroprocessing between those who stutter and those who don’t,” Kroll says. “People who stutter process speech differently.”

Can stuttering be cured?

Stuttering can not be cured in the way that an illness can be cured. But with therapy symptoms can diminish or even stop.

Young children can learn their way out of stuttering. This requires dedicated work on the part of the parents as well as the speech pathologist. Older children and adults can participate in intensive behavioural training that can reduce their stuttering.

angry_6_11.jpgHow do you know when your child's anger has become a problem? TVO and the child mental health experts at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre have pulled together the following lists of anger and aggression-related behaviours for ages 6-11 to help you decide when a child's anger has become a problem.


Behaviours are divided into three categories below; Typical (not to worry), Monitor (reason to continue monitoring behaviours) and Seek Help (behaviours that may indicate a mental health problem). These are only some of the highlights from theABCs of Mental Health on the Hincks-Dellcrest site. Click here to see the full lists of behaviours and things you can do.




The following signs of anger in a child are normal and not cause for concern. Click here for the full list of  behaviours for your angry child.


  • Breaking the rules, disobedience, angry behaviour or aggression; occurring more often in children at the low-end of this age range (6-12) and less often as they approach their teen years.
  • Yelling, fooling around, rough play, not doing what you are told.
  • Occasional anger and aggression in non-serious episodes.
  • Anger resulting from frustration at not getting one’s way.
  • By age 10 more and more of children’s misbehaviour tends to be aimed at getting the attention of their peers.
  • Starting around age 10, kids can be very interested in justice and rights. It’s here that parents may see flashes of anger from kids as kids grapple with their independence.



Watch for intensity, frequency and duration. It’s in these areas that behaviour can move from being typical to concerning. Click here to see a full list of behaviours for your angry child.

  • Angry outbursts where the child confronts the parent and refuses to behave is not necessarily reason for concern, but if it happens once a month or more, it definitely needs to be tracked and monitored.
  • If a single instance causes the entire family or peer group to be disrupted, or the child himself feels shaken as a result, close monitoring is recommended.
  • The longer an outburst lasts also increases the need for monitoring.
  • For a 6 or 7-year-old, a single angry instance that lasts for some time or even goes into the next day would be outside of the normal range. However, a 12-year-old has a longer attention span, so this would still be inside of the normal range of time. Expressing anger more often at parents at a middle school age is normal.


red_light_67x161_3.jpgSeek Help

The following behaviours are reason for concern. Click here for the full Hincks-Dellcrest list of behaviours for angry kids.

  • Behaviours that are clearly disruptive to daily living and highly disturbing to the parents and to other children.
  • Common anger and aggression.
  • Excessive yelling, angry outbursts, temper tantrums, excessive swearing.
  • Spiteful or vindictive behaviour.
  • Drawing or writing with aggressive themes.
  • Throwing things, damaging property.
  • Threatening or intimidating others (including persistent bullying).
  • Physical assault, including hitting, kicking or biting other children or even adults.
  • Fighting, perhaps with a weapon.
  • Fire setting. Cruelty to animals or smaller children.
  • The child lacks empathy and is a constant disruptive force.
  • Ages 10-12 is the beginning of the most common stage for the onset of serious behaviour and mental health problems. Misbehaviour of this degree is rarely seen in kids under age 10.
  • Parents may feel concern for their safety or the safety of other children.


Need Help? What To Do:


When children in this age group exhibit worrisome behaviours, parents need to seek professional help. In the meantime, parents need to control the misbehaviour as much as possible. This level of misbehaviour isn’t going to be eliminated but parents might be able to keep some control until counselling can begin. A written management plan will be essential. Other things parents can do:

  • Document your observations of the child, the exact nature of the behaviour, when and where the incidents occur, who was present and what strategies have been tried.
  • Count how often these behaviours occur and make a note.
  • Determine how good behaviour might be rewarded for this child. (e.g. stickers or computer time)
  • Think about negative consequences or punishments. (e.g. loss of privileges)
  • Formulate a plan, involve the child in your plan and stick to it.
  • Accentuate the positive in your child. Build positive reinforcement into your plan as much as possible.

Find more recommendations for your angry child in the ABC's of Mental Health section of the Hincks-Dellcrest website.

worried_6_11_216x186.jpgHow do you know when a child has been too anxious for too long? TVOParents and the child mental health experts at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre have pulled together the following lists of anxiety-related behaviours for ages 6-11 to help you decide when anxiety has become a problem.


Worry behaviours are divided into three categories below; Typical (not to worry), Monitor (reason to continue monitoring behaviours) and Seek Help (behaviours that may indicate a potential mental health problem). These are only some of the highlights from the ABCs of Mental Health on the Hincks-Dellcrest site. Click here to see the full lists of behaviours and things to do.



The following signs of worry and anxiety are normal and not cause for concern. Click here to see the full list.


  • Your child to shows a range of fear and anxiety in response to things happening in his life.
  • The child gets upset and anxious following such things as a car accident or a dog bite.
  • The child feels fear and anxiety while evaluating things that come into his life that may threaten his safety.
  • Your child’s fear response is very strong, but she is able to find a way to overcome the fear in a way that works for her and for others in the situation.



Children can show worry and fear in many different ways throughout their lives. The following behaviours can come and go, but they are reason for continued monitoring to watch for any progression. Click here to see the full list.

  • Fretting, tension and anxiety. Changes in mood.
  • Preoccupation with stressful situations, e.g. role-playing it over and over and talking it through.
  • Self-destructive behaviours, decreased self-esteem.
  • Changes in eating habits, occasionally wetting or soiling themselves, changes in sleep patterns.
  • Falling grades or diminished interest in school activities.
  • A focus or preoccupation with sexual behaviours or talk.
  • Changes in social interactions. Aggressive or anti-social behaviour.
  • Separation fears, fears of being alone, refusing to try new recreational activities.
  • Nail biting, stuttering, grinding of teeth.
  • A strong need to be protective of others.
  • Overreacting to situations.


red_light_67x161_3.jpgSeek Help

The following behaviours are reasons for concern. Click here for the full list of behaviours from Hincks-Dellcrest.

  • Worried behaviour that lasts an unusually long period of time, over weeks or months.
  • Significant change from previous mood or behaviour.
  • A combination of behaviours such as uncharacteristic sad mood along with angry and aggressive outbursts.
  • Worries so extreme that no matter what you or others do, your child is unable to be reassured.
  • Inability to concentrate on school work.
  • Persistent talking about the same fear and refusing to stop.
  • Your child is expressing an urgent need for others to help him  and avoids the feared object or situation.
  • Physical symptoms, such as vomiting or fever.
  • Behaviours listed above that are accompanied by significant change in the family environment.


Need Help? What To Do

Many children can exhibit extreme fear responses to new or unusual events, but they can usually use their internal resources to cope and continue on with normal activities. If, however, the fear is persistent and your child, even with help from others, can’t overcome the worry, it’s probably time to get some professional help. Here are some more tips:

  • See your doctor or other mental health specialist for help if you child is showing worrisome symptoms.
  • Discuss the problem with the child’s teacher and get his or her perspective.
  • Ask the teacher to help build a classroom plan to help the child manage her fears at school.
  • Celebrate any success the child has with dealing well with his fears.
  • Help your child to problem-solve the situations she worries about and to think rationally about the situation.
  • If your child is struggling with worry in a situation, ask the child if he can manage on his own or if he would like some help. This shows your child respect and reinforces the idea that he may be able to handle it on hisown.
  • Consider whether part of the problem is that your child needs more of your attention.
  • Manage your own anxiety. Model emotional control and good problem-solving behaviour.

Find more recommendations for your anxious child in the ABC's of Mental Health section of the Hincks-Dellcrest website.

sad_6_11_185x208.jpgHow do you know when a child has been too sad for too long? TVOParents and the mental health experts at theHincks-Dellcrest Centre have pulled together the following lists of sadness-related behaviours for ages 6-11 to help you decide when sadness has become a problem.


Sad behaviours are divided into three categories below; Typical (not to worry), Monitor (reason to continue monitoring behaviours) and Seek Help  (behaviours that may indicate a mental health problem). These are only some of the highlights from the ABCs of Mental Health on the Hincks-Dellcrest site. Click here to see the full lists of behaviours and things you can do.



The following behaviours are normal and to be expected. Click here to see the full list of behaviours for ages 6-11.

  • Faltering self-confidence and mood when the child is lacking opportunities for active engagement in his environment.
  • Social withdrawal, anxiety and loss of interest in things when the child is separated from her parents or other adults to whom they’re attached. However, this should not continue for more than two weeks.
  • Sadness when hungry or lacking sleep.
  • Sadness when the child's behaviour is being excessively restricted.
  • Sadness as a result of poor health.
  • Signs of sadness when attending a new school; however, this should settle down within about two weeks.
  • Listlessness if the child is bored and activities have become too monotonous for him.
  • Getting upset and sad when upsetting things happen, such as a friend moving away or not achieving a goal.



To be cause for concern, the following signs have to be a change from previous typical behaviour for the child. If it's not unusual for the child, it could be caused by something other than sadness, and other causes should be explored. The sad child typically exhibits a cluster of the following behaviours. Click here to see the full list of behaviours for kids aged 6-11.

  • A sad mood (crying, yelling, irritable, hostile).
  • No longer enjoying activities the child used to and becomes intense as time passes.
  • The appearance of listlessness, apathy or lack of motivation in school.
  • Aggression towards others, e.g. tormenting pets.
  • The child does not pay attention to personal appearance; appears sloppy.
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure. Getting a ‘C’ grade, for instance, can lead to tears and the child withdrawing for days.
  • Hopelessness, by saying things like, ‘nothing will ever change.’
  • The child seems passive or withdrawn.
  • Complaints of low energy and seeming tired even after sleep.
  • Stomach ache, headache and other physical symptoms, although not suffering from illness.
  • Difficulty making basic decisions; demonstrates confused and unclear communication.
  • The child dismisses her achievements, tending to focus on the negative.
  • Excessive reactions to any criticism or failure.
  • The child talks negatively about himself, saying things like, ‘I’m so dumb, what’s the use in trying?’
  • Moving from one activity to another without finishing the first task. Shows concentration problems.
  • An increasing number of unexcused absences from school.
  • Grades and motivation at school are falling.
  • The child does not seem concerned about falling grades.
  • Not taking care of valuable possessions as she has in the past.


red_light_67x161_3.jpgSeek Help

These behaviours need to be a change from the child’s usual behaviour, otherwise they could be a result of another problem.Behaviours may indicate a mental health problem when they interfere to a significant extent with the child’s ability to function in school, with friends and with family.Any of the behaviours below need urgent professional intervention and assessment. Click here to see the full list of behaviours for kids aged 6-11.

  • Sad, angry or anxious behaviours most of the time, most days for two consecutive weeks.
  • Sadness and worry so severe that the parent is unable to reassure the child, and interventions have not helped much.
  • Sadness significantly interfering with the child’s home, community, school and social functioning.
  • Physical complaints that interfere with child’s life.
  • The child draws or writes about aggressive themes or death about himself or others with progressive frequency.
  • No longer showing interest in activities she used to enjoy.
  • The child expresses pessimism, dismisses his accomplishments, magnifies failures.
  • School avoidance has increased consistently.
  • The child takes no care with personal appearance.
  • Extreme sensitivity, hopelessness, fatigue.
  • Talk about hurting himself and/or hurts himself.
  • The child is giving away all of her things.
  • Getting involved in risky, escapist behaviour.


Need Help? What To Do


  • You may want to speak to your doctor about referral to a pediatric mental health specialist if your child is showing worrisome symptoms, particularly if he is talking about, or is, harming himself or others.
  • Another avenue you may want to consider is asking your child’s teacher about enlisting the aid of school professionals. Children’s Services may need to be involved in this process.
  • Consider whether your child may benefit from an adjustment to the school day and discuss with his/her teacher.
  • Keep a journal of all of your child’s concerning behaviour so you can remember details and describe what’s been going on to professionals accurately.
  • Accentuate the positives in your child.
  • Don’t ‘bubble wrap’ your child. Protecting her from upsets in life doesn’t prepare her for real life.
  • Shape situations in which your child is apt to feel successful.
  • Make sure all parents and caregivers are working as a team in their approach to dealing with the child’s struggles.
  • Try to talk to your child about his day each day and engage him in conversation to draw him out.
  • Try to help her to engage in some of the activities she liked in the past.

Find more recommendations for your sad child in the ABC's of Mental Health section of the Hincks-Dellcreste website.

Nature.jpgKids are plugged into Xboxes and iPads, but take them into the woods and they don’t know what to do. Kids have lost the freedom to wander and explore the natural world around them. There’s even a name for it: Nature Deficit Disorder.


What is Nature Deficit Disorder?

According to experts like Richard Louv, author of "Last Child in the Woods,"  nature deficit disorder is a societal disorder that occurs when people get disconnected from nature.

When most of today's adults were growing up, they spent 70-80% of their free time outside. Now children spend 5% of their time outside, instead spending an average of 6 hours a day in front of a screen.

According to Louv and other experts, this has very real physical and cognitive costs for children.


What are the Consequences?
  • Obesity. As many as 26% of 2- to 17-year-olds are overweight or obese.
  • Poor development. The Canadian Paediatric Society says kids are not active enough for optimal growth and development.
  • Lack of learning opportunities. “The child’s motivation for learning is greater when they are outside,” says Cam Collyer, Program Director at Evergreen.
  • A lack of connection with the outdoor environment leads to apathy towards the long term health and sustainability of the planet, says outdoor educator Grant Linney.


Tips to Get Your Kids Outside:
  • Be intentional about getting your kids outdoors. “Parents and grandparents and other positive adults are gonna have to take kids into nature themselves,” says Louv.  “It’s not going to happen accidentally.”
  • Even if you hate nature, don't discourage your children. “It’s important to take your kids (outside) and try and hold back some of your resistance and let them explore and discover,” says Collyer.
  • Check the conservation areas and local parks for programs for your kids.
  • If your child is scared of all things creepy and crawly, take your child to outdoor programs with other children. If they see other children doing it, they may not be so afraid. It also helps if they see you handling little creatures.
  • “Change the eww into an ahhh,” says Linney. Get kids to feel and touch the outdoors.
  • Go outside and just let kids explore. If they find something, use that as a teachable moment.
  • Try to encourage your child’s school to become an EcoSchool.
  • Linney encourages parents to ask the province to provide funding to school boards so that they can expand educational outdoor experiences. That way kids develop a connection with the outdoors that can enrich their learning.



Watch our interview with Richard Louv, Cam Collyer and Grant Linney on Nature Deficit Disorder


Keeping Your Kids Fit

Posted by teachontarioteam Jul 23, 2015

kids_not_active_enough_644x362_0-600x337.jpgIt's a depressing sight: outside, the sun is shining, while inside, kids are flopped on the couch, eating junk and staring at a screen.

Like their parents, North American children have become way too sedentary. The result: it's harder for many growing kids to burn off calories. So they're eating junk and not burning it off. It's no wonder that childhood obesity is an epidemic.

What should you do?

One of the best ways to help your family get up and go is to make family time fitness time. "If you can combine the benefits of exercise with quality time with your kids, then you're getting the best use of your time," says Sarah Miller, mother of two and a personal trainer based in Oakville, Ontario. When you're active together, everyone's health will benefit, you'll share some special time with your children and you'll provide a good role model, letting your child know that exercise is important in everyone's life.

In their book, The Overweight Child: Promoting Fitness and Self Esteem, authors Teresa Pitman and Miriam Kaufman offer some strategies to encourage your kids to get up and go:

  • When they say: "But it's too hot to go out"... obese_Small_0-300x199.jpg
    ...You can suggest "It may be hot but if we dress properly and drink lots of water, we'll stay cool." Decide on an activity that everyone likes and make an afternoon of it. Try swimming at the community pool, taking a hike at a local conservation area, or cycling. Don't forget the hats and sunscreen!
  • When they say: "I'm bored"...
    ...You can say: "Let's go explore the neighbourhood." Biking and walking are also great aerobic family workouts. Even if she's too young to walk or sit up, you can include your youngest family member with a jogging or regular stroller, a carrier, bike trailers or bike seat.
  • When they say: "I want to watch my show"...
    ...Try: "Television is off-limits to all of us." Set a good example and watch less TV yourself. The kids may even follow your lead. Instead of everyone flopping on the couch after dinner, go outside and throw a ball around, take a night walk, or kick a soccer ball at the local park.
  • When they say: "I'm too tired"...
    ...Tell them: "Exercise and eating well can boost your energy."
    Children who don't eat a proper diet and get enough exercise have lower energy levels. Set a good example by giving your family a well-balanced diet that includes the four basic food groups. Avoid fatty, sugary, processed foods that add empty calories.



But what happens when it's gone too far? How can you tell your child's weight is a problem?


(Below come courtesy of: Get a Healthy Weight for Your Child: A Parent's guide to Better Eating and Exercise, by Dr. Brian McCrindle and James Wengle. The Hospital for Sick Children: Toronto). If you answer yes to any of the following questions, it may be a clue your child's weight is causing physical and emotional problems and you should seek professional help:

  1. Does your child move slowly from place to place?
  2. Does your child shy away from or avoid most physical activities?
  3. Does your child have difficulty keeping up with friends during physical activity?
  4. Does your child seem to breathe more heavily or get short of breath more easily than their friends during physical activity?
  5. Does your child seem to sweat a lot or more easily than other children during physical activity?
  6. Does your child become extremely flushed or "red in the face" during physical activity?
  7. Is your child overweight and becoming distanced from social activities or from activities once enjoyed?
  8. Has your child been expressing any unusual signs of sadness, anger or frustration?
  9. Is your child having any problems in interactions with other children?
  10. Have your child's teachers and coaches expressed concern about any changes in your child's behaviour?
  11. Is your child having difficulties concentrating at school or while playing sports or games?
  12. Is your child hurting other children?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, go visit your doctor or public health nurse and ask for help.

firefighter_50.jpgFire safety is one of the most important things a child can ever learn.

While most kids never have to face the scary reality of a serious fire, it can happen to anyone at any time.

That’s why it’s so important that kids learn about how to avoid a fire in the first place. But there’s lots parents need to remember, too, to keep the whole family safe from fire.

Below are some tips for parents from the Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office on fire safety.

Family Fire Safety Tips:
  • Teach your kids to Stop, Drop and Roll should they catch on fire.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of kids.
  • Teach kids that they must never play with matches, lighters or sources of fire.
  • Teach your kids to stay away from and be safe around fire sources.
  • Never leave children unsupervised around a fire source such as a working stove or fireplace.
  • Teach your children not to hide in the event of a fire no matter how scared they are.
  • Teach your children the importance of never sticking anything in an electrical socket.
  • Be sure not to store any foods or other items children may be tempted by in above or around the stove.


On Being Prepared:
  • Choose the Right Alarm: there are many different types of smoke alarms available with different power sources, technologies and features. Before purchasing smoke alarms, visit for information or contact your local fire department.
  • Install Alarms in Proper Locations: Ontario law requires that working smoke alarms be located on every storey of the home and outside all sleeping areas. Avoid installing smoke alarms in or adjacent to kitchens and bathrooms, or near air vents, windows or ceiling fans.
  • Manage Nuisance Alarms: If a smoke alarm frequently activates due to cooking activities or using the shower, do not remove the battery! Try moving the smoke alarm, purchasing a smoke alarm with a hush feature or replacing ionization alarms located near kitchens with photoelectric alarms. For more solutions to nuisance alarms, visit
  • Change Batteries: Install a new set of batteries in your smoke alarm at least once a year or whenever the low-battery warning sounds. Test the smoke alarm after installing a new battery.
  • Test Your Alarms: You should test your smoke alarm every month and upon returning home after an absence of more than a few days. If the alarm fails to sound when the test button is pressed, make sure the battery is installed correctly, or install a new battery. If the alarm still fails to sound, replace the smoke alarm with a new one.
  • Replace Alarms: Be sure to replace your smoke alarm once every ten years.


Avoiding Fire Checklist:

To keep your family safe, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you stay in the kitchen when you are cooking? Leaving cooking unattended is the number one cause of cooking fires.
  • Do you keep things that burn away from the stove? Kitchen fires often occur because items are kept too close to the stove top.
  • Do you keep young children away from the stove? Children can easily be burned or scalded in the cooking area.
  • Do you wear tight-fitted or rolled-up sleeves when you use the stove? Loose-fitting clothing can come into contact with the burners and catch fire.
  • Do you know what to do if you have a cooking fire? When cooking on the stove keep a tight-fitting lid nearby. If a pot catches fire, slide the lid over the pot to smother the flames and turn off the stove. Never attempt to move a burning pot. If you have a fire in the microwave, turn it off and keep the door closed.
  • Do you know the correct way to treat a burn? Minor burns can be treated by running cool water over the wound for three to five minutes. If burn is severe, seek medical attention.

Tips reprinted with permission from the Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office (2007).

grade_one_transitions_644x362.jpgMost Ontario children starting Grade 1 this year have had the full day experience with Kindergarten already, but that doesn't mean the transition will be easy.


Starting Grade 1 can be a point of pride for kids. They are done with Kindergarten and are big kids now, but they are now sharing the hallways and lunchrooms and schoolyards with a lot of even bigger kids.


So the first few weeks may be ones full of jittery excitement, tears or even severe anxiety. We have put together the following tips to help your family through this transition:



Before School Starts:



  • Validate nervous feelings. “It’s really important to first validate children’s feelings by acknowledging that it’s okay that they have certain uncomfortable feelings,” says Christie Hayos, a clinical social worker at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto. Let them know that these feelings are normal and probably the same feelings other kids are having.

  • Get familiar with the school. Before the first day of school, visit the school with your child so that the route, the building, and school surroundings become familiar.

  • Start the routine early. About a week or so before the start of school, begin putting your child to bed at a normal time for a school night. For a week before school starts, be sure your child then gets up, dressed, and fed like a regular school morning.

  • Practice being organized. “Some children have difficulty keeping track of their belongings,” says first grade teacher Giovanna Smith. “They do not know what is theirs. They need practice to get dressed and to get organized.”

  • Review safety rules. If your child is taking the school bus, review the school bus safety rules with them. Also, make sure everyone knows how to walk to school safely.

  • Let your child be a part of the planning. “Children need to see what mom and dad have purchased for them so they can recognize it at school with 20 others that look the same,” says Smith.



What to expect in the Grade 1 classroom:



Every Grade 1 classroom is different. Since the emergence of Full Day Kindergarten, many Grade 1 classrooms have had to change too.


But things parents can expect, according to Smith, are desks or tables set up for collaboration, a word wall, a large gathering space and areas for inquiry, reading, quiet thinking and researching. Some of these elements may be similar to the set up of their Kindergarten room, some of these elements may be new to your child.



How to support your child's learning at home:


Smith suggests the following:


  • Encourage independence. Your child will need to learn to work and problem-solve independently at school so make sure that independence is also encouraged at home. In other words, let kids dress themselves, put on their own shoes and do things for themselves.

  • Maintain a consistent schedule. Have a bedtime that you stick to so that your child will be well-rested for school. Get up at the same time and eat breakfast.

  • Provide a healthy lunch. Pack a lunch kids are capable of opening and closing themselves. Remember most schools encourage packing reusable containers instead of using disposable bags or wrappers to keep the level of garbage down.

  • Label everything. Yes, even pencils and crayons, says Smith.

  • Encourage “why” questions. “Let them be curious,” says Smith. You don’t have to know the answer. Helping your child figure it out is part of the fun.

  • Play games with your children. Choose games where children have to make choices and solve problems.



What to do if your child seems to be struggling with the transition:


iStock_000021226838Small.jpgAfter the first few weeks, your child should feel fairly comfortable in Grade 1. If your child is still having problems into October, there could be a deeper issue. Hayos has these tips to help:


  • Think of what is typical for your child. “If you have a child that is typically not anxious about going back to school or has low levels of anxiety about going back to school, and all of a sudden this looks much different and the levels of anxiety are much higher than before, you may want to investigate more and ask the child more questions,” says Hayos.

  • Empathize with your child. Let your child know you understand something is wrong and you want to help.

  • Name the problem. Identify the specific problem your child is having. If your child doesn’t want to go to school, why?

  • Work with your child to put a plan in place. “Often kids have really great ideas about how they could get support,” says Hayos. Children like to feel that they are actively a part of, and have some kind of control over, the future. “When they know the plan, when they are part of it, they are likely to feel more successful and to buy into the plan,” says Hayos.

  • Work with the teacher. The teacher works with your child on a daily basis and probably has experienced similar issues with other children. The teacher will often have very helpful ideas to rectify the situation.

  • Get help elsewhere. If none of the above works, contact your family doctor.