Tragedies, such as that which occurred recently in Orlando, often leave us without words. It is highly likely that your children have come in contact with unmediated news stories outlining the crime, and that they have feelings and questions that they would like to work through with you. As you work through your own emotions after this traumatic event, it is important to remember the ways in which your children can be affected, and how it is that you can help support them.
Conversations about tragedy are managed differently in every household, but here are some resources that can help guide you as you delve into discussions about violence with your children.
- The LGBTQ Parenting Network has listed various ways in which you can support your family while engaging your children in age-appropriate conversation. They remind readers that “children may have completely normal fear and anxiety reactions that may seem extreme to adults.” Reassurance and the acknowledgment of feelings are key to helping your child process what has happened.
- The Washington Post has compiled a list of tips to assist parents and teachers when speaking to children of varying ages about high-profile acts of violence. Some of these include providing extra support to children who may feel especially defenceless due to shared identity markers with the victims, reading children’s body language, and aiding children in separating reality from fantasy.
- Breakfast Television Toronto has a short video with suggestions from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. They share recommendations such as first finding out what kids know before broaching the topic, and to make time to have these conversations, but not anytime close to bedtime.
- Be mindful of any changes in your child’s behaviour after they have learned of this event. The Mayo Clinic’s tipsheet for helping your child cope with tragedy is an essential resource for parents of children of all ages.
Remember, you’re not alone in having these conversations. Reach out to the Family Care Office, Campus Chaplains Association, an Elder at First Nations House, or Counselling Services at UTSC, UTM, or the St. George campus should you find that or your family are in need of more support. For staff and faculty, free and confidential counselling is available through the University’s Employee Assistance Program. Connect with UofT’s Sexual and Gender Diversity Office for UofT-based Pride events this June and July and come together with others in a display of community and solidarity.