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February 26, 2008 05:03 PM

Bus Crash: Talking To Your Kids About Tragedy


This week, the community of Cottonwood has buried three children killed in a school bus accident, and a fourth funeral is coming up Thursday. 


It may have your children asking questions, wondering if the same thing could happen to them. 

The images are terrible: a school bus tipped on its side, the flashing lights of emergency vehicles. Now, imagine what those pictures must look like through the eyes of a child. 

"Their world view is still so reduced to lack of experience, lack of education, they're learning from their parents," said Dr. Paul Ritter with Avera McKennan Behavioral Health Outpatient Services in Sioux Falls. 

Dr. Ritter says it's especially tough for children, because the victims are around the same age. Also, many children ride a school bus every day. 

"Their ideas and understanding are still developing, so they may think it could happen every time they get back on the bus," he said. 

Dr. Ritter says it's best to be honest when discussing the accident. Don't be afraid to tell them what happened, as much as you think they'll understand, and try to reassure them that it's highly unlikely that the same thing will happen again. 

"Understand the details so that information is accurate, then talking about maybe statistics,” said Dr. Ritter. “How often does this happen? And then saying, ‘If it does, what would you do?’" 

And if your child isn't talking about it, try bringing it up yourself. Dr. Ritter says it'll help you gauge how it's affecting them. 

"It's a little bit like fishing," he said.  "If that child takes the hook, then talk about it more."

 

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