How exactly to talk to your kids after the Bourke Street tragedy.

Images of bloodied faces and upturned prams. Footage of a speeding car circling an intersection, a man hanging out the window and yelling at the crowd only minutes before he sped his car through Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne on Friday. He killed five people, and injured more than 20.

The imagery is horrific, even without the pictures and videos and first-person accounts seen online.

“In this digital world your children might read or hear about what happened in more graphic detail than you realise,” Dr Margie Danchin, who is a general paediatrician at The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH), said in a video from the hospital about helping kids deal with the shock.

“Talking to them can help them to understand what happened, to feel safe and to begin to cope,” Dr Margie explains in the video that was released on Facebook on Monday.

The ways children might react

According to Dr Margie, different children might react to the tragedy in Bourke Street in different ways.

“Some children may not react; others might become withdrawn, anxious or clingy; some might have headaches or tummy aches,” she says.

“Kindergarten-age children might wet the bed or start sucking their thumb; primary school kids may have trouble sleeping or be afraid to go to school; older kids might deny they are upset,” she continued.

How to help your child

“It helps just to talk about what happened; your child will look to you about how to react,” Dr Margie says.

You can:

  • Listen to their concerns and reassure them that the event is over and they are safe
  • Allow them to speak.
  • Explain what happened in simple language without going into frightening detail
  • Maintain your child’s routine to give them a sense of normality
  • Make sure they get enough rest and sleep
  • Spend extra time together
  • Tucking them in at night or extra cuddles will make them feel secure
  • Limit their exposure to graphic details of the event

Most importantly, Dr Margie explains, children will recover eventually, so long as they are given the time and the care to move forward.