How to talk to kids about Newtown shooting

Many local school districts left it up to parents to describe Friday's tragedy in Newtown to their children.

The news of the shooting may be especially hard for kids to grasp because most of the victims are just children themselves.

Dr. Suzanne Courtney says the best way to start the conversation is to ask kids what they already know about the situation.

"If your child hasn't really heard a lot, it's not necessary to tell them the narrative of what happened," she said. "You might simply want to say 'There's something that might be coming up at school tomorrow, so I want us to be able to discuss it at home first. There was a situaiton out in another part of our country, where a lot of people got hurt. So do you have any questions about that?'"

Many children will have questions, which Dr. Courtney says adults should answer using simple, age-appropriate sentences.

Dr. Courtney says it's important to keep emotions in check throughout the discussion, because children often mimic the way their parents react to situations.

If a child becomes scared or upset, Dr. Courtney suggests reassuring them they are safe and far away from where the tragedy happened.

Limiting exposure to television and radio coverage of the event will also help children cope with news of the shooting.

"There are times when people say to themselves, well my child is too young to be impacted by whatever's on in the background," she said. "That's really not true. And, research suggests that they get a lot of information by looking to their parents. So, if their parents end up getting upset or agitated, or even distracted by something on TV, that does send signals to the child to which they react."

South Bend school officials released a statement Friday afternoon, saying student safety is their number one priority.

The corporation will have school social workers available for any students who are still struggling to cope with the tragedy on Monday.

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