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Toronto Catholic District School Board

Supporting Students in Times of Tragedy

Suggestions for Supporting our Students

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the heartbreaking tragedy in Toronto. This crisis will impact many people in many different ways. It is important to take care of ourselves as well as our young people. It is equally important to remember our Catholic faith and beliefs during such a time of crisis.

While there is much yet unknown about the shooting on the Danforth, there is already much concern, distress and mourning across our country. Regardless of the circumstances, children and youth can be affected by such tragic events for many reasons. They may have first-hand knowledge of persons who were injured or killed. They may also be exposed through extensive media and internet coverage. 

Children’s natural resilience plays an important protective role, but trauma and extreme stress and anxiety can interfere with their learning and well-being. Families and educators can support children by establishing a sense of safety and security, helping them to process their thoughts and feelings, reinforcing their resilience and strengths, building positive connections within the school community, placing events in the proper context, and providing any needed mental health supports.

We know that children may be upset or have questions about what has taken place. Our professional mental health staff (school social work and psychology staff) have created some tips to help you to help children and youth feel safe. We encourage you to review these tips and use them at as appropriate for their age and needs.

Tips for Supporting Children and Youth after a Crisis Event

Pray Together. Prayer for people who are suffering honours them and provides people an opportunity to help others in a tragic event. Prayer opens us to hear what God is calling us to do in tragic and unsettling times. Prayer is a way to find clarity in the chaos around us by turning to God when we feel pain and anxiety. Prayer grounds us in God’s mission and reminds us that God is active in the world.

Be reassuring. Children take their emotional cues from the significant adults in their lives. Your reactions are most important. Recognize that some children may be concerned about something bad happening to themselves, family or friends. Explain to them the safety measures in place and reassure them that you and other adults will take care of them.

Be a good listener and observer. Let children guide you to learn how concerned they are or how much information they need. If they are not focused on the tragedy, do not dwell on it. However, be available to answer their questions to the best of your ability. Young children may not be able to express themselves verbally. Pay attention to changes in their behavior or social interactions.

Monitor the news. Images of a disaster or crisis event can become overwhelming, especially if watched repetitively. Young children in particular may not be able to distinguish between images on television and their personal reality. Older children may choose to watch the news, but be available to discuss what they see and to help put it into perspective.

Emphasize people’s resiliency. Help children understand the ability of people to come through a tragic event and go on with their lives. Focus on children’s own competencies in terms of how they coped in daily life during difficult times. In age-appropriate terms, identify other crises from which people, communities, or countries have recovered.

Highlight people’s compassion and humanity. Large-scale tragedies often generate a tremendous outpouring of caring and support from around the country and world. Focus on the help and hopeful thoughts being offered to those affected by other people.

Maintain as much continuity and normalcy as possible. Allowing children to deal with their reactions is important but so is providing a sense of normalcy. Routine family activities, classes, after-school activities, and friends can help children feel more secure and better able to function.

Spend family time. Being with family is always important in difficult or sad times. Even if your children are not significantly impacted by this tragedy, this may be a good opportunity to participate in and to appreciate family life. Doing things together reinforces children’s sense of stability and connectedness.

Ask for help if you or your children need it. Any tragedy can feel overwhelming for families directly affected, particularly those who have lost loved ones. Staying connected to your community can be extremely helpful. It may also be important to seek additional support from a mental health professional to cope with overwhelming feelings.

Communicate with your school. Children directly impacted by the disaster may be under a great deal of stress that can be very disruptive to learning. Together, parents and teachers can determine what extra support or leniency students need and work with parents to develop a plan to help student. Your school social worker, psychologist or counselor can also provide extra support. Speak to you school principal in order to access you school social work or psychology staff.

Be aware of your own needs. Don’t ignore your own feelings of anxiety, grief, and anger. Talking to friends, family members, priest, and mental health counselors can help. It is important to let your children know that you are sad. You will be better able to support your children if you can express your own emotions in a productive manner. Get appropriate sleep, nutrition, and exercise.

Resources / Sources


• rces/Documents/Trauma%20Crisis%20Intervention%20and%20Resilience.pdf



Prayer in a Time of Tragedy
Lord of all compassion, we pray for those who are suffering due to the tragic events that have occurred in our city.  Grant those who lost their lives eternal rest. For all those who are wounded and recovering, may their healing be swift; and for those who care for the injured, may you bless them with strength and skill.
We entrust to you all families of those who were injured, and those who have died. In the face of this great tragedy, we pray that they may never yield to discouragement and despair.  May they know your peace that surpasses all understanding. 
Fill us all with your unfailing hope and mercy.  Help us to be diligent in the coming days to be especially caring and kind to one another, always ready to love and forgive. 
We ask all these things through Christ our Lord.  Amen.