This week is Anti-Bullying Week and the theme this year is United Against Bullying.
The human-animal bond can have a hugely powerful effect when it comes to building positive relationships and in addressing bullying. We have worked with many young people who have either been bullied or who bully others, the common theme with both is that they are both suffering and need help and support.
The powerful effects of the human-animal bond along with a AAI (Animal Assisted Interventions) practitioner can help young people feel relaxed in a safe non judgemental environment; they are able to open up about what is going on and to begin to talk about the issues they are facing.
Often young people who are bullying others talk about what it is going on in their world, the challenges they are facing and why they are reacting in this way. We are able to help them look for alternate ways of communicating their feelings and expressing emotions. Canine Assisted Intervention activities can promote empathy and kindness towards others and through our specialist teams we are able to help children understand how others are feeling and how our actions can affect them. The positive relationships built between the young people and the dog lead to the exploration of positive friendships, building positive relationships as well as recognising when relationships are not positive and how to manage these.
Young people who are being bullied feel safe and are able to discuss the impact bullying is having on them. Our specialist teams are able to support the process and offer valuable strategies.
This week our teams have been busy with lots of fun activities raising awareness of Anti-Bullying Week and the importance of kindness and empathy. The week kicked off with odd socks day which is always a favourite amongst our teams as we get involved to show our support.
Throughout the week we have been working with the brilliant newly released Head2Heart books called Peggy and Dudley which both cover the topic of bullying from differing perspectives. Dudley is an English Sheepdog. He is at The Little Paws Hotel for the day where a dog called Minnie is calling him names. This makes Dudley feel sad and he really wants the name calling to stop. This story gently explores thoughts and feelings to do with being bullied.
Peggy is written from the perspective of the bully. Peggy is a wire haired Lurcher. She is a rescue dog who is welcomed into a new family, but she cannot settle and is quite unkind. Peggy visits The Little Paws Hotel each week and every time she goes she is mean to the other dogs. This story gently explores emotions around being the bully. Our teams have been using these two books in our sessions this week to raise the importance of Anti-Bullying Week and initiate discussion on the subject and have received very positive feedback from the children and schools alike.
Anti-Bullying Week offers a powerful platform to unite and stand up to bullying and talk openly about why and how bullying can happen and how we can offer support to anyone in that situation. Hopefully the benefits of these discussions and activities stay with us as valuable lessons all year round too.