Tragedies happen every day, there are some that send shock waves around like Toronto Van Attack, experts say many children will have questions about tragedies.
Child psychologist Dr. Jillian Roberts, founder of parenting resource website Family Sparks, says if a child does have a question about what happened, set aside time to talk in person.
“Try not to handle this quickly in passing, by FaceTime or on the phone. Talk to your child in person to establish the right atmosphere to have a proper conversation.”
Roberts adds it’s a parent or guardian’s responsibility to validate any emotions the child is expressing, and this can range from anger to sadness to confusion.
And when a child does ask a question, Roberts continues, thank them.
“Make sure they know it is OK to ask questions. Answer their questions in a ‘just enough’ way. Do not speculate in any way, stick to the facts that are known. Sometimes, kids ask the same question over and over. This is OK. Be patient. It is their way of processing the information.”
Sometimes parents will get asked, “why do bad things happen?” If this is the case, it’s OK to admit you don’t know the answer to this question.
“I find it helpful to respond with something like, ‘There are both good people and bad people in the world. I believe that there are thousands times more good people than bad.’”
Lauren Millman of Lauren Millman Counselling and Psychological Services in Thornhill, Ont., adds depending on the child’s age, parents should be mindful how their child reacts to Monday’s incident.
Millman says if your child is asking questions about the suspect in particular, it is important to remind them this was an individual attack, and the suspect is now with police.
Children also need guidance on how to identify helpers, Roberts adds, and this is when parents can talk about first responders and health-care workers.
“Show children all the good people helping right now.”
And most importantly, tell your child they are safe.
“Explain how the police officers caught the person responsible very, very quickly,” Roberts says.