Talking to School-Aged Children in the Aftermath of Sandy Hook

Every parent I've spoken to in recent days has been struggling with the pros and cons of talking - or not talking - to our kids about the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Doing so requires imagining the unimaginable; we at Mommy Poppins especially have in our thoughts our colleagues at Mommy Poppins Connecticut, some of whom have personal connections to the tragedy. For many parents, dropping our kids off at school this morning was an emotional moment. Picking them up might be, too, depending on what conversations are taking place on the playground. That's why we've collected some resources that might help you face whatever questions arise today, and as the week's news stories unfold.

Local parenting expert Betsy Braun Brown offers wise words, as ever, on the topic of discussing such an enormous tragedy with young children. She makes a strong case for NOT sharing the information, but she also offers some excellent tips about how to approach the issue if your child is exposed to media stories or hears of it on the playground. Her question and answer section is particularly helpful.

A similar perspective is shared by the NY Times' Motherlode blog, in the article How Not To Talk with Children about the Newtown Shooting. This piece offers a strategy of following "worried" thoughts with "brave" thoughts if children bring concerns to you. It also makes the excellent point, though, that young children are blessedly self-centered and may not pay as much attention to a news story as we fear they will.

The Aha Parenting Blog offers a very thoughtful piece on mentally preparing to talk with kids about the tragedy and answering children's questions of both the practical and esoteric variety. The article offers some great suggestions for very specific answers that are unique to this situation as well as some thoughts about what issues might come up later and how to address them.

The blog Kidpower's post How to Empower Kids in the Face of Armed School Violence is not specific to this week's events but has some excellent suggestions for processing together, and the website edutopia has collected several handy resources as well.

If the shooting leaves you wanting to do something, the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has eight suggestions of ways to take action. Donations to help the families of victims can be made to the Newtown Parent Connection.

And finally, when in doubt we always know we can turn to Mr. Rogers. A quote and touching image have been making the rounds of social media; the story of both are in today's Washington Post. The quote is some of the best advice we can take with us when talking to our children this week:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”

— Mister Rogers

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