The Catholic Organization for Life and Family encourages witnesses to stand up for victims.

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family encourages witnesses to stand up for victims.

September 30, 2013
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

The Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) urges character formation both at home and in the schools to combat bullying.

In a booklet entitled "Bullying: a plague to combat together" published Sept. 18, COLF points out that 30 per cent of Canadian teens are bullied at school, according to statistics from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Ten per cent "experience daily attacks or threats from their peers," COLF says.

"Their attackers are quick to identify an element of vulnerability and ridicule their physical appearance, their way of being or acting, their learning disability, sexual orientation, family circumstances, race, religion, etc.," COLF writes.

Bullying on the Internet has compounded the problem, more often affecting young girls as victims, COLF says. The booklet outlines the effects of bullying on the physical and mental health of victims that could lead to poorer school performance, dropping out or even suicide.

The booklet also examines the impact of bullying on those who witness it.

"While the majority of young people are neither bullies nor victims, many witness difficult situations where they see classmates being humiliated, ridiculed or beaten," COLF says. "If they do nothing, or even worse, if they encourage the bully, these witnesses may experience feelings of fear, anxiety, shame or guilt."

The booklet calls for a collaborative approach to combat bullying in the schools among parents, students, teachers and principals. It outlines some of the characteristics of bullies, who can be either boys or girls and "often have domineering personalities" and "little empathy for their victims."

ALL SHAPES AND SIZES

Sometimes they have been bullied themselves, COLF writes. Bullying victims do not always fall into the stereotype of the "nerd," but can include healthy teenagers attacked by jealous classmates.

"Whoever they are, whatever their background, the victims of bullying have great difficulty in repelling those who victimize them; they are often very reserved and consumed with anxiety," COLF says.

"Because they fear reprisals, about half of the victims remain silent about being bullied - even at home - and they go through a tremendous amount of loneliness and fear."

The booklet gives parents advice on how to spot signs their child might be a victim of bullying. It also explores how the home environment can contribute to bullying, especially if parents adopt a cold, authoritarian style that condemns the child along with bad behaviour.

Parents who maintain proper supervision but retain warm relationships with their children as well as a father's presence in the child's life seem to be a protection against that child becoming a bully later on, the booklet says.

COLF talks about how Christian parents can train their children in the Christian virtues and find opportunities to teach about how they can follow Christ.

"From a very early age, our children can learn to be in the presence of Jesus," the booklet says. "It will not take long before they understand that he is their best friend, and they will be happy to share their games, their joys and sorrows with him."

Forming a child's character begins in the home, the booklet says.

"The scourge of bullying is one of many challenges they will have to face," it says. "So many other influences will leave their imprints on their lives. This is why the ethical standards we try to instill in our children are so important for moral development and for their future behaviour."

COLF offers suggestions for families on making character formation a priority; exercising parental authority properly and teaching by example. It suggests settling internal family conflicts fairly, practising virtues and encouraging spiritual development.

SUGGESTIONS FOR SCHOOLS

The booklet also lists ideas for schools to implement to combat bullying. These include teaching children about meaningful opportunities to serve and encouraging witnesses to stand up for victims.

The booklet can be downloaded or ordered via COLF's website at www.colf.ca.