Turn on the TV or radio, open a newspaper or go to any news app, and the crash is the top story – as updates, stories and tributes continue to flow in. If you have children, these reports and images can have a particularly powerful effect. And beyond the inevitable “that could have been my child,“, many parents struggle with how to explain the accident to their kids and teens, and how manage their complicated emotions surrounding the tragedy.
Here are some ways to help children through this difficult time.
Limit the Exposure
As you would expect for a tragedy of this magnitude, there is a significant amount of media coverage, available on all channels. Some of it is graphic, much of it is horrific, and all of it is just incredibly sad. Consistent exposure to an event with such intensity can be overwhelming for children, who respond to catastrophic events differently than adults.
You don’t want your child to be afraid to board a bus, take a drive in the country or join a travelling sports team. Nor do you want them to develop anxiety or nightmares over the images they’re seeing on screen. It’s not disrespectful to the victims or the families to turn off the news or even turn it down – you and your family can still mourn, support and pray.
Donations to the families of the Humboldt players may help your family cope, offering solace in the feeling of doing some good.
Have an Open Conversation
Depending on the age, maturity level and personality of your children, they will deal with events such as this in different ways. Some may be openly sad. Others may keep their emotions bottled up. Many will have questions you might not feel equipped to answer.
Death is a topic that isn’t often discussed until it’s a part of our lives, so understandably many parents aren’t sure how to explain it. What’s important is to be factual – you don’t need to hide the fact that death happens or what it means. At the same time, you’ll want to be reassuring: You and your children are safe.
Listen and Offer Comfort
Children can feel emotions more acutely – even if they’re experiencing the Humboldt tragedy from afar, they may be forming links between their own lives and those of the players and their families. For instance, they may start to worry about their family members dying, or begin to dread their next school field trip. Even if your kids don’t play hockey, never ride a bus or don’t belong to a sports team, they may internalize the sorrow of the situation. Be sure not to dismiss their emotions – listen to their worries, give them plenty of support and all the hugs they need.
Find Ways to Help
It’s natural to feel helpless after a tragedy, and children are no different. Donations to the families of the Humboldt players may help your family cope, offering solace in the feeling of doing some good. Or, your children may feel better offering symbolic support, such as placing their hockey sticks outside the front door, wearing Humboldt colours (yellow and green) or wearing sports jerseys to school. Doing something to help – even in a small way – can be a great source of comfort.
Talk to Their Teachers
If your child is having a particularly hard time coming to terms with the tragedy, it could be a good idea to speak with their teachers. Talking about it in class with their peers may make your child feel more comfortable to share their emotions, as others are likely experiencing similar feelings. One-on-one time with a teacher or guidance counselor could also give your child an additional outlet to talk about something especially troubling.
Every child will deal with tragedies in different ways. Understanding how your child is feeling and knowing when they need to talk – to you or to someone else – will help them manage through difficult emotions.
As all of Canada joins the Humboldt Broncos hockey community in mourning, RBC has donated $50,000 to PARTNERS Family Services for mental health support in the community. #HumboldtStrong
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