What can be tougher for a parent than to discuss with their children the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook School?
There is no one-size-fits-all explanation. But there are some guidelines that may come in handy should, heaven forbid, another incident like this occurs. Here are some suggestions that I’ve culled from dozens of sources:
Different kids need different kinds of reassurance. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. But experts agree that children are fragile, and they tend to absorb everything they hear. Kids look for cues from their parents. Under no circumstances should a parent invalidate their feelings. Let them know that it’s normal to feel anxious at a time like this.
A parent’s main concern is to help their child feel safe. At the same time be brief; avoid information overload. Better to answer their questions than initiate a conversation about the tragedy. You may want to begin by asking what they know about the event. Then you can gauge your explanation by what they say.
One approach might be: “Just because this happened at one school doesn’t mean it’s going to happen at your school. I’m really comfortable and confident about your school.” Remind them about the crossing guards, security features and precautions, and the trained teachers and other staff at their school.
Tell them the truth, in their own language suggests Emanuel Maidenberg of UCLA. Explain that this is something that doesn’t happen very often, and that they are safe.
Rituals seem to have a healing quality for kids. Lighting a candle and saying a prayer with your children can be comforting. They may want to write a card or a toy to a child in Newtown.
Finally, let them know that you are close by and ready to talk more about the subject anytime they wish to.