What Should Parents Tell Their Children?

Following the Tragedy at Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut
on December 14, 2012

It is so difficult to know the right thing to say. It depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and temperament (some children are more sensitive than others),

Even though many of our children live far away from Newtown, they may have feelings of fear, anxiety, and confusion. They may ask questions, such as, “Why were the children killed and will this happen in our school?”

  • Answer questions honestly and directly based on your child’s age.
  • Don’t overwhelm young children with too much information.
  • You can assure them that they are safe. The killer is no longer alive.
  • Invite them to speak to you whenever they need to.

With reassurance and love, they should be able to get on with their lives. If not, you may want to seek professional help. At this time, it is also recommended that parents limit  exposure to watching the event on TV and seeing violent movies, and even video games.

Some children may have already experienced violence in their schools through bullying or may have been exposed to violence on their streets or in their homes. Some of these children may experience traumatic symptoms. For younger children, there may be more temper tantrums and nightmares. For older children, there might be sleep disturbances, appetite changes, and lack of participation at home and in school. They may need professional help. You can start with the guidance counselor, social worker, or school psychologist.

Don’t forget yourselves. You too, as parents, have been affected by this horrific crime and may worry about your child’s safety in school. Be sure to share your feelings and concerns with others. You need to take care of yourselves so you can help your children.

Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.