How to talk to your kids about about the Laval bus crash tragedy
The tragedy that took the lives of two children and injured several others at a Laval daycare centre on Wednesday morning has sent shockwaves well beyond the city.
Many people were upset by the events, particularly because of the age of the young victims. Children may be asking their parents questions about the incident.
Nafissa Ismail, a professor at the University of Ottawa School of Psychology, offers some suggestions on how to ensure that this discussion goes smoothly.
"When such a tragedy occurs, it is essential to establish a dialogue with your child quickly if he or she feels the need to do so," she said.
"It's not an easy subject to talk about," she says, "but it's important that our child knows that he or she can talk to us about his or her emotions and that we will try to answer his or her questions. You don't want to be in a situation where the child is sad, worried or anxious and doesn't know how to talk about it or how to handle it."
Depending on the child's age and state of mind, the parent can decide what level of conversation is appropriate and what is best left unsaid.
"Children under five don't have the cognitive structures to understand situations like Laval," said Ismail. By the time they're six, they have a better grasp of what's happened, and they can sense that it could happen to them.
"It is therefore important to be reassuring, by reiterating the exceptional nature of the events," the psychologist said.
"The child can project himself and imagine that this kind of situation could happen to him. The goal is to make our child understand that events like this are very rare and that we don't have to feel threatened if we go to school or see a bus," said Ismail.
"You don't want them to develop fears about what happened, so the important thing is to calm the anxiety that the child may have."
The parent also has a responsibility to preserve the child's innocence by not revealing too many details that might confuse the child, especially about the cause of the tragedy.
"It will be important not to mention certain elements, especially those about which we are not certain, such as the motives for the act, whether it was intentional or not," she said. "We can just say that everything is under investigation and that the police are doing their job."
It's also possible that the child hasn't heard about the tragedy or doesn't feel the need to talk about it at the time, but Ismail says it's important to keep an eye out because the anxiety and stress of the tragedy may be delayed.
"Tomorrow, Thursday, the children may talk about it among themselves at school," said Ismail. "We have to keep listening because just because our child doesn't seem to be very affected today doesn't mean he won't be later, when he realizes what has happened."
The same advice applies to parents, she added.
"As a parent, it's not easier. It shakes you up, you think about the parents who are affected and it gets to you," Ismail said. "We have our own emotions, fears and worries, but it's important not to pass them on to our child."
In any case, it is normal to be affected and disturbed by what happened in Laval, said the specialist, who invites anyone who feels the need to seek help.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Feb. 8, 2023.
This story was written with the financial support of the Meta Grant and The Canadian Press for news.
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