Children’s bullying behaviour impacts teacher and parent wellbeing
Some parents are not coping with their young children’s challenging behaviour, and even experienced teachers are struggling, according to Dr Cara Swit from the University of Canterbury’s (UC) School of Health Sciences.
Dr Cara Swit is a specialist trainer in educational and developmental psychology in UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development with a particular focus on early intervention for aggressive and bullying behaviour in young children.
Surprisingly, given the awareness of bullying in schools, Dr Swit is one of the few researchers in Aotearoa New Zealand focusing on young children’s bullying behaviour and effective early intervention strategies. She is also the only New Zealand representative on an international consortium of 15 countries on parental burnout.
She has been spending time with parents and teachers as part of the pilot for a new three-year longitudinal study to gather evidence on how young children’s behaviour impacts on the health and wellbeing of parents and teachers. The study was sparked by some worrying trends Dr Swit observed in classrooms.
“Anecdotally what we hear is that young children’s challenging behaviours are causing stress and burnout to teachers and parents, but we are just starting the research that may link children’s challenging behaviour to teacher and parent health and wellbeing,” she says.
“It seems that parents are really stressed. They’re saying, ‘the strategies that worked before don’t work anymore and I’m at a loss – what do I do?’ I work in the early intervention space and most of the educators I work with are very experienced and they are just not coping. They are at a loss.”