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Connecticut School Shooting: How to Discuss with Your Children

What, if anything, will you say to your children about Friday's mass killings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school?

Parents' hearts were in their throats in Midtown and across the country as news spread Friday of an elementary school shooting in Connecticut that reportedly took the lives of 20 children and 8 adults.

Newtown Patch in Connecticut has been providing continuing covergae of Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School that was carried out by a single adult who is now dead. Connecticut state police say an investigation is underway to piece together what motivated the gunman.

As President Obama fought back tears at a press conference he said:

Our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.  May God bless the memory of the victims. And in the words of scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.

On Friday, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed ordered flags to be flown at half-staff and said:

“On behalf of the City of Atlanta, I want to express my deepest sympathy for the children, families, teachers and first responders affected by today’s horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. As a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence perpetrated on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, I hereby order that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff at all City of Atlanta public buildings and grounds until sunset, December 18, 2012.”

The incident will raise questions about how future such massacres can be prevented. It will also require parents everywhere to figure out how to discuss the violence with their children, many of whom will be returning to their schools next week.

Parenting.com offers advice for discussing tragic incidents with children. Among the suggestions:

  • Don't bring frightening issues up with children under 7, but be prepared to discuss them if your child asks.
  • Reassure your small children that they are safe. Even though you know you can't guarantee it, admitting ambiguity won't be helpful.
  • Ask questions to make sure you understand how your children are feeling, and assure them their feelings are OK.

The New York Times parenting blog offers a dialogue and a video about discussing violent and scary incidents with your kids.

Do you plan to discuss the shooting with your children? How will you go about it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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