As the BC teachers’ strike moves in to the new school year, parents’ and children’s lives are being disrupted. This is not how we expect the school year to begin.
Younger children have a hard time understanding what is happening and parents are wondering how to talk with them about it. You may have very strong feelings about the strike on one side or the other, but I think it is important, from a developmental perspective, to present the situation as objectively as possible.
We don’t want our children to see either the teachers, or the government, as “bad, selfish, greedy, insensitive etc.” regardless of how we personally feel about it. Much as we want our kids to adopt our opinions, in the long run it’s best to give them a chance to think for themselves.
I don’t pretend to have the answers, but I think the situation presents opportunities for teaching our kids about the country they live in and how we deal with conflict.. Canada is a democratic society where people are free to express their opinions, and to ask for what they would like where they work. We are fortunate to live in a country where this is possible. If we can look at the broader picture we can find a way to talk about the strike with our kids. Here are some ideas for things to talk about:
1. People disagree about things. This happens in families (give examples) and sometimes between friends, and sometimes between teachers and the people who are in charge of where we live (older kids can get the idea of government).
2. It’s OK to have different opinions.
3. It’s important to be able to say what you think and be respectful of other people’s opinions.
4. Sometimes people don’t like other people’s ideas.
5. Sometimes people get impatient if they can’t convince other people to agree with them.
6. They can keep trying to talk about it.
7. Sometimes people are very unhappy about their jobs and how they have to do them. They want things to be better.
8. Sometimes they can’t convince their employers (the people who give them the jobs) to make it better, so they say that they won’t do any work for a while. That is called a strike.
9. The teachers are unhappy about some parts of their jobs. They want more help in their classrooms. They care about children and want to do the best for them. It costs money to get more help in the classroom. So they are going on strike.
10. The people they work for don’t want to spend too much of the people’s money on more teachers in the classroom. They also care about children but think that money is needed for other things.
11. Everyone wants the strike to end. But the two sides need to keep talking and work it out together so they can agree with each other. They are doing that now.
12. Once they work out their problems, the strike will be over.
13. Hopefully that will happen soon and you will be able to go to school.
This is a difficult and stressful time for families. Parents’ lives are completely disrupted. Children are confused by the uncertainty, unhappiness and unpredictability they see around them. The calmer and more objective we are, the easier it will be for them to get through this challenging time. Eventually, school will start up again and everyone will work together to create a good learning environment for our children.