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Talking to Kids of All Ages about Tragedy

By HERWriter Blogger
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talking about tragedy to children of different ages MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

On Friday December 14, 2012, the world changed. A lone gunman in Newtown, Conn., killed 26 people, including his own mother and 20 children.

The slaughtering of 6- and 7-year-olds was the straw that broke the camel's back for many people, especially parents.

School is supposed to be a safe place. Gunmen are not supposed to target little kids.

Mass murders like this are not supposed to occur at all, but definitely not be inflicted upon innocent children.

In the aftermath of this tragedy, parents both near to and far from Newtown are now grappling with whether or not they should talk to their children about the shootings. And if they do, what should they say?

A parent's first instinct is to shield their kids from such devastating news. But, in a 24-hour news cycle and with easy access to social media and texting, it may be inevitable that children will hear about it.

But all children are not the same, and especially when it comes to children of varying ages, different approaches should be taken.

Age: Infant to Age 3

Children in this age group have emotions that are closely tied to those of their parents, so it is important for the parent to make sure they are on solid footing emotionally before talking to the child.

The focus for this young group should be on simply giving extra loving care to the children and maintain as much of a normal routine as possible.

Age: 3-5

With preschoolers parents should offer reassurance and give direct and to-the-point questions designed to get children to start talking about the concerns or fears they feel. Also, experts warn parents to turn the TV off and not force children to repeatedly see the disturbing images over and over.

Age: 5-12
Children at this age are highly attuned to what is happening in the world and why, so parents are encouraged to just keep the lines of communication open, asking and answering questions honestly and without beating around the bush.

Children are resilient and get often get through a tragedy with few emotional scars.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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