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How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Scary News?

Friday's mass shooting in Connecticut and the media coverage of that incident will likely remind parents that sometimes kids are exposed to violent and tragic news.

 

Friday night, many dinner table conversations around the United States will likely be dominated by the .

But what if the ones asking questions about the violence are the people at the table whose feet barely reach the floor, and who will be off at an elementary school of their own come Monday morning?

The world is a complex place, but parents can take measures to reassure kids who have questions about violent or scary events in the news.

Parents should start by finding out what their kids know and ask questions to gauge their feelings about the news, according to PBS and Parenting Magazine.

Both publications also suggest parents should keep their discussions about scary news simple.

"Give children the information they need to know in a way that makes sense to them," PBS writes on its parenting site. "At times, a few sentences are enough."

Parents should also offer reassurance and use scary news as an experience to teach, PBS and Parenting Magazine report.

Other helpful tips from the one and only Mr. Fred Rogers include:

  • Do your best to keep the television off, or at least limit how much your child sees of any news event.
  • Try to keep yourself calm. Your presence can help your child feel more secure.
  • Give your child extra comfort and physical affection, like hugs or snuggling up together with a favorite book. Physical comfort goes a long way towards providing inner security. That closeness can nourish you, too.
  • Focus attention on the helpers, like the police, firemen, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and volunteers. It's reassuring to know there are many caring people who are doing all they can to help others in this world.
  • Try to keep regular routines as normal as possible. Children and adults count on their familiar pattern of everyday life.
  • Plan something that you and your child enjoy doing together, like taking a walk, going on a picnic, having some quiet time, or doing something silly. It can help to know there are simple things in life that can help us feel better, in good times and in bad.
  • Let your child know if you're making a donation, going to a town meeting, writing a letter or e-mail of support, or taking some other action. It can help children to know that adults take many different active roles and that we don't give in to helplessness in times of worldwide crisis.
  • Even if children don't mention what they've seen or heard in the news, it can help to ask what they think has happened. If parents don't bring up the subject, children can be left with their misinterpretations. You may be really surprised at how much your child has heard from others.

Read more:

What do you think? If you have young kids, how do you handle the topic of tragic, violent or scary news? Tell us in comments.

 

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