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Tips for Parents on Discussing Connecticut Shooting with Kids - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Tips for Parents on Discussing Connecticut Shooting with Kids

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Families in central Virginia are getting ready to send their kids back to school for the first time since the Connecticut shooting ripped away any sense of safety and security they felt in class.

Experts say talking to your kids about the tragedy is important as they gear up to go back to school Monday.  It will be a topic of discussion, and they need to hear it from you first.  We've got some tips on how to approach this sensitive conversation with your children.

Monday morning, parents will send their children to school for the first time after one of the worst school shootings in history.  Region Ten counselor Neta Davis says parents need to be the ones to share the story of Sandy Hook Elementary School with their children.

"You run the risk if you try to shield your child from it, is that someone else is talking to them and is the messenger and it would be much more frightening for them to hear it from someone else," she said. 

Davis cautions parents to not overshare, and to tailor what you say according to your child's age.

"A teenager you might talk about what might happen that might cause this kind of thing, what might be the impact," Davis said.  "Whereas like a middle school or late elementary child you might really stick to how we keep ourselves safe.  Less detail, and when you're talking about smaller children - say your 5-year-old or 6-year-old who are going to hear what happened - and keeping it very general."

As your children learn more about the tragedy, monitor their reaction.  Davis said, "Nightmares, anxiety, loss of sleep, loss of appetite - those are the kinds of things that a parent would want to make sure that their child is not experiencing."

Assure them they're safe at school.  "Be real clear that this is a very rare incident," said Davis.

That's something University of Virginia professor of education Dewey Cornell says will be difficult, but vital.  He said, "It's very hard for us as adults to recognize that schools are safe, and would be even harder for children to take that objective perspective."

And in a time when even adults are feeling helpless, help your children feel like they can make a difference.

Davis said, "Sending the victims positive thoughts, well wishes.  If the family prays, praying together, specifically about the victims and their families will be reassuring, giving the children a chance to feel like they're helping."

Davis says it's not uncommon for children to feel anxiety after hearing about tragedies like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  That's why it's particularly important for parents to be there to answer their questions, and give them comfort.

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