How to explain Newtown to kids

We feel overwhelmed by the tragic event that led to the death of 20 kids and 6 adults in Connecticut. Violence is never an answer, and an event of this kind is very hard to understand both for grown-ups and for kids. If kids are not given the opportunity to express their feelings about what happened, this is news that can have a very bad impact on them: how can we help our children elaborate and get over this tragedy?

1) Talk about it.

Don’t try to hide it. It’s everywhere and they sure have heard something about it. It’s better to bring it up and make clear that it is something that they can talk about.

2) Don’t give too many details.

Especially if your kids are preschoolers, you should try to explain what happened in the simplest possible way. Younger kids may get attached to details and their imagination could make them bigger, thus feeding their fears. Keep it simple: “a man holding a gun entered a school and started shooting, causing injuries and the death of some people in the school”.

3) Emphasize positive models.

The teachers who sacrificed their lives to protect their students; the kids hidden in the bathroom, who kept silent not to be found by the killer; the boy who proposed to attack the killer since he knew karate: they are incredibly valuable models of courage and honor and can help kids get over this terrible event.

4) Listen to them.

While it could take a while before your kids feel like saying something about it (it’s different from kid to kid) it’s extremely important that you listen to them: what do they think of what happened? What did they understand from the news? They have to know they can talk about anything with you. If they’re scared, they’ll tell you and they will give you the opportunity to reassure them.

5) Make them feel safe.

This may be the hardest. As parents, we are scared to death about what happened. But it is very important that our kids don’t think they are not safe in their schools. School is like a second home to them, and they need to know that their parents and teachers do their best to keep them safe, and that they shouldn’t be afraid of anything.

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