Doernbecher Children’s Hospital Child Psychiatrist Ajit Jetmalani has some advice for parents in discussing the recent tragedies in Newtown, Conn., and the recent Clackamas Town Center shooting.

The Oregon Health & Science Univeristy expert offers the following tips:

  • Parents should be aware of their own reactions to these tragedies and attempt to refrain from alarming their children through verbal or non-verbal cues. Children often become concerned about their own safety or the safety of their families upon hearing of tragedies like the ones that occurred this week. Children often take their parents lead as to how to react.
  • Every child’s reaction is unique to his or her personality, developmental stage and experiences. Create a sense of openness to discussion but avoid pressuring children to talk.
  • It is important to make sure children understand the events that took place are rare occurrences and that children remain quite safe and secure.
  • Parents should monitor their children’s time watching TV and make sure they are not overly exposed to tragedies such as these. News reports are too fast for kids to absorb. In addition, children process this type of information much differently than adults and think of the personal impacts more often than adults do.
  • It’s OK to proactively talk to your kids about these events, as they will likely hear about them later. Be sure to provide limited detail and highlight the rarity of such occurrences.
  • Experts also think that children who are preschool age and younger do not need to be provided with details of these events unless they ask.
  • Encourage kids to talk about how they are feeling and respond to those concerns.
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