Juhl: How to talk to your children about tragic events like the Laval bus crash

They look to us as they learn to respond to frightening experiences. We cannot ignore their questions.

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My child was six years old and I picked him up from school one Tuesday before I went to the newsroom for the most grueling night shift of 2001.

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It was a clear afternoon with a few clouds but no planes overhead. We talked about the things you talk about with six-year-olds. And then during a pause they said, “Mom, are we talking about the buildings in New York?”

My stomach sank. You know the feeling; it happened to you too You want to protect your children from all the darkness in the world, but once they are part of society, it invades. You can’t always shield them. You have to be honest with them.

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They look to us as they learn to respond to frightening experiences. We cannot ignore their questions when faced with events like Wednesday’s tragedy when a Laval bus driver crashed into a day care center, killing two children and injuring others. The level of detail in your conversation depends on your child’s age and ability to understand. Parents with particularly anxious children measure their reactions.

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Help them feel safe

Responding with panic and fear will feed their fear. It’s okay to cry in front of your kids, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, tell them you need a few minutes before you talk about it. Take a short walk, drink a glass of water, or do breathing exercises. Seeing you create space for yourself teaches children to self-soothe. Return to the conversation even when the moment seems over. You can start by saying, “I feel stronger now. I will answer your question.”

When discussing the event with other adults, be aware of the little ears in the room and don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say directly to your child.

If they tell you they’re afraid something bad might happen to them or a family member, talk to them about everyday safety and be loving. No matter how old your child is, it’s time for a hug.

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Be age appropriate

What you tell your six-year-old is very different from the reassurance you give your teen. Try to keep younger children away from scary pictures and messages. “The younger a child is, the more important it is to explain them in a clear and simple way, using familiar words,” advises the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Answer the questions they ask and don’t feel like you have to give them details they may not know about.

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Be vigilant about the vocabulary you use. Avoid using phrases like “a crazy person” or referring to victims or suspects by their appearance.

If they ask why there are bad people in the world or why terrible things happen, it’s okay to say you don’t know. “Try to find positive examples that help balance your perception of things,” Children’s says. You can point out the people who help in difficult situations, e.g. B. Medical staff or first responders.

Ask for help when you need it

Never ignore their fears. Acknowledge her feelings. If you notice any changes in your child, such as B. bedwetting (this has not been a problem), nightmares or increased anxiety, contact him. Talk to a pediatrician or turn to resources such as Info-Social (811, Option 2).

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