Therapist: Tragedies Tough to Tackle With Young Kids

LAS VEGAS -- Parents all over the country have heavy hearts for the families in the small Connecticut town of Newtown.

Twenty young children died after a gunman opened fire inside an elementary school.

For many parents, the mass killing is a tough subject to tackle and depending on what age the child is, the conversation may have to tailored to fit their level of understanding.

Family therapist Claudia Schwarz said that if a child is too young -- about elementary school age, -- and hasn't already heard about the shooting, it is a good idea to avoid the subject.

"You are putting fears into kids' heads that shouldn't really be there," Schwarz said. "This isn't something that does happens on a daily basis and I do think that schools do a good job at taking precautions."

Schwarz said young children aren't capable of understanding tragic situations like Friday's shooting and may only become afraid.

"I think if they did hear about it, you do have to talk to them, because you have to normalize their school and their life," she said.

LINK: PTA Offers Parents Resources on School Violence

If the child is older, about middle school and high school age, parents might want to initiate the conversation, asking questions such as, "Are you upset?" and "Why are you upset?"

Oftentimes children will show signs of fear if they are impacted enough by something they see or hear.

Younger children might suddenly become afraid at night or stop sleeping.

"If you see a kid becoming more anxious or being more fearful about going to school, or fearful of being separated from mom and dad when they haven't been in the past," she said.

Even if the older child doesn't seem worried, Schwarz said this is a good time to talk to them about being aware of their surroundings.

"Talk to them about their own safety, if something were to happen like that, if someone started shooting, what would you do?" she said.


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