A gunman opened fire in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, killing 27 – 18 of which are children – before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.More >>
Residents of Newtown, CT, are memorializing the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. A gunman opened fire at the school, killing 26 – including 20 children – before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.More >>
(RNN) – With the horrific news that 28 people were killed – 20 of them young children – at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, parents now are faced with how to discuss the issue with their children.
Children may have trouble sleeping and behave in an unusual manner while trying to process the event, and the National Children's Medical Center suggests contacting a pediatrician, a school counselor or a mental health professional if needed.
The NCMC offers tips for parents, teachers and other adults on how to talk to children who may be troubled or upset, support them and help them understand what happened:
Children will benefit greatly from support and caring expressed by the adults in their lives. Create an environment in your home or classroom that encourages respect for each other's feelings and fears, and allows for a supportive, healing environment.
Let children know that you are available to talk with them and let them ask questions.
It is OK if adults do not have answers to all of their children's questions. It is OK to let your child know that you do not have the answer but that you will try and find out.
Let children know about the support being provided to students, friends, and families of the victims. Be aware of children who may have experienced a previous trauma and may be more vulnerable to prolonged, intense reactions. They will need extra support.
Acknowledge the frightening parts of the event and explain what happened in words children understand. Explanations should be appropriate to the child's age, developmental stage, and language skills.
Reassure children that they are loved and will be taken care of.
Children who have concerns about siblings who are living on a college campus or have concerns about safety at their own school should be reassured and their concerns validated.
Be aware of how you talk about the event and cope with the tragedy, and maintain your child's routine as best as possible. Children learn how to react to traumatic situations by watching and listening to parents, peers, and the media. Reduce or eliminate your child's exposure to television images and news coverage of the shooting. The frightening images and repetition of the scenes can be disturbing for children. If they do see coverage, be sure to talk with them about what they saw and what they understood about the coverage. Make sure to correct any misunderstanding or misinterpretations.
For children who are too young to talk or do not feel comfortable talking about their feelings, expressive techniques such as play, art and music can provide additional ways for children to express their feelings and let you know what may be troubling them.
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