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Discussing Tragedy With Children Depends On Age, Maturity

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People gather for a prayer vigil at St Rose Church following an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012.  (credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

People gather for a prayer vigil at St Rose Church following an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. (credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

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DENVER (CBS4)- No matter where you live or how old your children are, discussing a tragedy, like the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, with children can be difficult.

The images from the shooting aftermath in Newtown, Conn. are disturbing for everyone, especially children and the saturation with internet and television coverage can be overwhelming.

A man killed his mother at their home and then opened fire Friday inside an elementary school, massacring 26 people, including 20 children.

The rampage, coming less than two weeks before Christmas, was the nation’s second-deadliest school shooting, exceeded only by the Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 33 lives in 2007.

Experts say when it comes to your children, turn off the TV and talk to them.

“You don’t lie to kids. You don’t want to say, this will never happen again or you’re going to be completely safe for your whole life,” said Clinical Child Psychologist Mara Kailin.

Kailin works at the Aurora Mental Health Center where they counsel children and families.

Kailin said parents need not worry about discussing the tragedy with children too young but with older children, age 7 or so depending on the child’s maturity level.

“I would bring it up in kind of a general way. I think it’s always a good idea to talk about safety with your kids. You can still have a very general conversation and still glean some information about specific events,” said Kailin.

She said to reassure them that tragedies like this are rare and that they are safe in their homes and with trusted adults She recommends pointing out concrete examples of safety measures in their lives.

Above all, address their fears.

“Talking about those fears, making sure they know that it’s okay that they have fears, keeping them to a routine is very key for kids of all ages,” said Kailin.

She also said it will probably be a very difficult conversation for parents to have but that children look to their parents for answers and even discussing it can put some fears to rest.

Parents also should focus on the heroic acts from first responders and teachers, for example.

CBSNewYork.com Coverage of School Shooting In Connecticut

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