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Tips For Tots: Talking to children about school tragedy

By Anne A. McGrady

 At this very special and sacred time of the year, the holiday season, we must pause and be thankful for one's family and children who we all hold very close and dear to our hearts.

The tragedy at Newtown, Conn., a quaint Normal Rockwell-type of town, in which neighbors were like families and violence was not a normal part of life, has again shocked towns, cities within the United States and throughout the world.

This event taking place at a school and involving young children ready to learn and experience life is such a tragedy with no explanations.

As children try to sort out and process the events at the elementary school, be observant, very calm and patient as children may have trouble sleeping, behavior may be difficult and unusual. If needs are present, please contact your pediatrician, school counselor, mental health professionals.

Tips When Talking to Children Regarding The School Tragedy

• Be Supportive- Children benefit greatly when they have support, caring adults in their lives. Have respect for their feelings and fears and be supportive.

• Be Informed- It is important that your child hears about the tragedy from you - parents and guardians.

• Be Available - Ask what child has heard about incident - let them know you are available to ask questions. As child asks questions, this will indicate how they are processing information. Listen to concerns and emotions, answer their questions with age appropriate information, TV viewing and discussing event should be limited.

• Be Reassuring - Let children know they are loved and will be cared for.

• Be Calm - Children will react and sense your feeling and respond accordingly. DO NOT over feed information. If you are calm, children pick this up and demonstrate calmness.

• Be Thoughtful - Maintain routines as possible. Again, children learn how to react to traumatic situations by watching and listening to parents, peers and media. If TV coverage is viewed, make sure child understands what was viewed.

• Be Creative - For young children, expressions of feelings may be seen in their art, work, play, music.

• Begin to Normalize - Children need to go back to school - assured by parents of their safety. This might mean parents accompanying child to school.

References:

Today Show, December 15, 2012

Cecelia Hanley - talking to children about shooting tragedy 2012

Murphy-Responds Conn. School Tragedy 2012

In memory of those Kinders, young children and administrators whose lives and learning was interrupted by this tragedy, God Bless You!

Holiday Reads:

“A Pirates' Twelve Days of Christmas,” Philip Yates, 2012, Sterling Children's Book. 12 Days of Christmas in the life of a pirate. 4-8 years.

“A Pirates' Night Before Christmas,” Philip Yates, Sterling Children's Books, 2008, 4-8 years. Night before Christmas in a Pirate's life.

“The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas,” Anne Muecke, Chronicle Books, 2008. Every Christmas Eve, the dinosaur fossils in the museum come to life singing, dancing, eating, gingerbread and celebrating. 4-8 years. With a read aloud CD.

“Snowmen at Work,” Carolyn Buchner, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012. When winter sidewalks seem to have been mysteriously shoveled, a child wonders if snowmen are magic and have nighttime jobs while people are asleep. Includes hidden pictures.