How to talk to children about residential schools and the 215 Indigenous children found buried in mass grave

After the horrifying discovery of the remains of 215 Indigenous children in British Columbia last week, many parents across the country are struggling with how to talk to their children about it.

First Nation leaders in Waterloo Region say it's important to keep the conversation age appropriate.

Amye Annett-Werner, of Six Nations of the Grand River Territory and member of the Cayuga Nation, Wolf Clan, says she eased her children into the discussion before attending a memorial in Brantford.

"It was a very heavy experience, to see that, to be there, to place it," she said. "We had a discussion and I asked them how they were feeling and we came up with some solutions of what we could do as a family to honour the memory of the children, their families and their communities."

For elders at Anishnabeg Outreach, the trauma of Canada's residential school system is an all-too-familiar household conversation.

"It isn't just surviving, it's, it's blood memory. Residential school is a blood memory from the beginning," said spiritual healer Shkaabaawis Sagassige Giizis.

Holistic consultant Jane Burning says the grim discovery is a reminder of family trauma.

"They have not found the words to be able to share with their children about what has happened yet," she said.

Burning hopes education and open conversation can lead to a better understanding between the two cultures going forward.

"We can learn from them about that connection and for these children not to focus on the trauma and the pain and the injustice but to see how we can connect as a whole and become something more," she said.

For Annett-Werner, experiencing the Brantford memorial helped her family come to terms with the grief.

"Anger, sadness, everything, everything just different waves of it," she said. "It's something that my parents didn’t have a choice to tell me either. What I would ask people is to step out of that privilege of not having the choice and to sit down with their kids."