Talking Points for Parents
In light of the recent incidents at St. Michael’s College School and the ongoing media coverage, it’s important that parents feel equipped to address their sons’ questions and concerns. Although conversations like this can be challenging, they can help our boys better understand difficult situations, make them feel safer, and support them as they process emotions and formulate personal responses to what has occurred. Furthermore, these discussions can help ensure your son obtains important information from a trusted person instead of turning to less accurate sources.
The following are tips and considerations to help guide conversations as they arise:
- Ensure your son feels safe. After such incidents, it’s natural for children to question their safety. Help your son understand that his safety is everyone’s first priority, both at home and at school. Providing a safe environment for all students is the top priority for all employees at Upper Canada College.
- Think about when to have the conversation. Finding the right time to talk is important. You may notice that your son prefers to discuss various topics at particular times of the day (e.g. before dinner). Use this to guide when to begin the conversation.
- Follow your son’s lead. It’s important not to overwhelm your son with information he does not need to know, nor cares to know. Ask your son what he’s heard or knows about what happened. Use his answers to guide your discussions.
- Clear up misconceptions. Your son may have some misinformation leading to more concerns. Clearing up misconceptions will help reduce stress. Be truthful and stick to the facts as you know them. If you’re not sure of the correct response or correct information, do not speculate.
- Remain calm. As best you can, try to remain calm when having the conversation. Your behaviour when discussing a difficult situation will inform your son how he should feel. It’s OK to show emotion, but consider removing yourself if you experience intense emotion.
- Limit media exposure. Reduce the amount of media coverage your son observes related to the situation. Younger students may not be actively watching the coverage, but may still be aware of the content being discussed and become upset. Older students may wish to gain more information, but caution should be taken regarding overexposure, as it can lead to heightened levels of stress. A general rule of thumb is that key information is all that’s needed.
- Return to normalcy. Structure and routines are comforting. As best you can, maintain any routines to reduce anxiety.
- Observe your son’s behaviour. The expression of emotions is normal and healthy, and should be supported. That said, some children may experience more stress as a result of difficult situations like those currently being featured in the media. The ways children respond to stress can vary, but the general guideline is to look for changes in behaviour (e.g., if your son is generally healthy but begins reporting headaches and stomach-aches, or if he usually sleeps well but begins experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep). Behavioural changes may be in response to heightened stress, so please observe and take note of any changes you may see.
- Seek additional support. If you observe changes in your son’s behaviour or have additional concerns, speak to your son’s teacher or adviser, or contact a member of UCC’s Health Centre team.