As our hearts and prayers go out to the parents, students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, we are also facing our own children's fear and confusion about the event.
There are a few issues parents should immediately address with their children:
1. Ask them what they already know
Be sure to start by asking your child what they have already heard or think they know about the tragedy. You want to dispel any rumors or exaggerations they might have heard.
2. Make sure they know the children and teachers did not do anything wrong
As children are often taught that people are punished for bad deeds, it is important to speak to children about the incident as something that a very sick person did, not as a punishment.
3. Keep habits the same
Bonnie Peters, a licensed clinical social worker quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, advises parents to help young kids feel safe by solidifying the family routine. "Let kids know what their plans are for daily routines. Parents need to let children know they know what time they're going to school and getting home; that they know their teachers; and that those teachers are looking out for any strangers, so everyone is working to make school a safe place," Peters said.
4. Let them know they are safe both at school and at home
Explain to children that they are safe in their school and home and that is why schools have fire and emergency drills so everyone can be prepared.
5. Let them ask as many questions as possible
It is important to keep the conversation open and let them come to you to ask questions whenever they have them.
6. Don't leave the news on
Once you have discussed the tragedy, try to keep it off TV's and the computer. This only makes them more alarmed.
You also might want to consider offering a prayer to the Newtown community with your child.