Talking to Kids about Newtown, Connecticut

posted by on 2012.12.17, under Learning and Growing, Parenting

Today was a tough Monday for parents and teachers as children returned to school after the jarring events in Connecticut on Friday. It can be hard to know whether and how to discuss the shooting with your children, or even to gauge how much they know about what happened. Depending on your child’s age, you may need to address the information your child has heard, or it may be best to turn off the news.

The following are tips from Dr. Brad Schwall from an interview on WFAA-Channel 8:

Preschool–2nd grade Discuss the incident only if the child has heard any of the news. There is no need to inform the child of the tragedy if the child does not know about it.

3rd–5th graders are more likely to have heard the news. Decide whether to bring the issue up with 3rd and 4th graders based on their temperaments.

Check for what your child knows – Ask, “What have you heard today?”

You may choose to approach the subject with children in 6th grade and older.

No matter your child’s age, consider the following responses based on how you believe you need to address the tragedy with your child:

  • The tragedy is isolated and tragedies like this happen rarely.
  • The fact that this tragedy happened does not mean there is an immediate danger where you live.
  • Emphasize that safety precautions are in place in schools.
  • Reflect what your child may be feeling – “I know this is scary news. It is very sad.”
  • Emphasize empathy for the victims – “It is very sad that this happened to those families and children.”
  • Teenagers may reflect on the fragile nature of life and the unpredictability of life.

The conversation may focus on:

  • Validating your child’s feelings – it is OK to feel scared or sad
  • Emphasizing that your child is safe
  • Empathizing with the victims

Visit Dr. Schwall’s website for more information. The Parenting Center also offers a Parenting Advice Line that is open Monday–Friday 12pm–3pm. If you are unsure of how to approach this conversation with your children, do not hesitate to call 817/332-6399 with questions.

And remember – your children look to you for cues. Keeping the family routines, maintaining a sense of calm and security, managing your news intake and loving on your children can go a long way in relieving stress for your kids (and for you too).

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