A healthy child with a healthy family is just as important as a healthy one with unhealthy family dynamics. For children to achieve their full potential, it is critical to develop healthy family values and relationships with others.

If we want to ensure that children grow up with healthy families, values and skills, we must have similar models in place at school and workplace.

In July, the British Columbia Children and Youth Representative heard from high school and summer school students across B.C. about the damaging effect peer pressure, stress and poor relationships have on them and their young friends. Their new report, Kids and Parents, sets out policies to support healthy family dynamics in B.C.

A key finding of the report is that parents play a critical role in creating positive family environment to instill values and attitudes to sustain wellbeing.

Furthermore, the report pointed out that peer pressure plays a major role in the attainment of self-harm behaviours among youth, the impacts of which are severe.

Story continues below advertisement

I was heartened to hear of a many youths coming forward with their experiences of peer pressure and the impact that peer pressure has on their lives. They spoke of how stressors that are at school had led to instances of self-harm and how they considered suicide attempts to avoid them.

We also heard from a very young survivor of suicide from grade 1 about the pressures that she felt from peer pressure and how she was desperate to try and find someone who would feel the same way as her.

Other reports from their high school reflected the scourge of peer pressure. These teens observed how it was difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with another peer and how bullying of students negatively impacted their self-esteem.

Consequently, they informed of their well-being to some extent but, in others, what could be worse was to be asked to leave school because of bullying.

I noted in my previous article on a developing report that examined the effects of peer pressure that students reported on their social lives and friendships, that the issue is significant. In fact, the British Columbia research demonstrated that it was significantly associated with achievement in school.

These peer pressures are toxic not only for school students but for parents too. One in four parents reported their teenagers were physically or verbally abused by another student. Another in three reported they had been bullied at school.

Story continues below advertisement

Story continues below advertisement

A parent’s ability to regulate social behaviour needs to be tested. The research suggests that teenagers who have had their Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) validated and commonly referred to as social phobia increase the chances of experiencing and exhibiting self-harm.

This growing study is one of several that demonstrate the need for prevention and prevention strategies.

The message to parents is clear: we must shift our emphasis to preventing an unhealthy family dynamic. You can build a healthy family model and learn how to nurture and care for your family if you are able to learn to support these values and behaviours at home.

Canadian researchers have shown that we have the resources to support families that are less healthy.

To do this, we need to identify the root causes of adversity and ensure that these behaviours can be prevented in schools and communities.

Our province must chart a new path to prevent and manage the challenges of family decline. We need to work with schools and governments to create conditions where families can thrive, to create positive family environments and to help parents and caregivers practice positive coping strategies, building on the foundational values and behaviour principles built into each family unit.

Story continues below advertisement

In summary, learning to deal with the stresses of a healthy family can lessen the influence of peer pressure on education and help students achieve their full potential.

The best way to build healthy relationships with children is to build a community of family pillars, especially at school and to improve workplace environment.

Children deserve to know that their parents, grandparents and other adults are involved in shaping positive family relationships with other adults.

I have recently collaborated with a team of high school teachers from Ryerson and Merritt to develop innovative strategies for connecting families.

We need to build schools that offer training and teaching so families can develop sound values and habit.

Story continues below advertisement

A very important first step is the establishment of successful families that raise healthy relationships in the community and then build strong work and school relationships.

I am confident that these early steps will pay off in long-term impact for all children and their parents.

Rich Dillon is the B.C. Children and Youth Representative.