A: With teens, again I would let them lead the conversation and find out what they have heard first. For teenagers who are hesitant about opening up, asking what other kids at school are saying about the shooting may be an easy way to spark the conversation. Parents are an important sounding board for their teenagers' thoughts and feelings about these events.
Q: Should you shield your children from news like this or let them know what's happening?
A: Parents serve as the protective shield between their children and the world. The way we use that role changes as our children develop. For very young children, I would generally keep them from watching television or videos related to the tragedy. Parents can answer their questions and help translate the main points for them. It is very difficult to keep older children and teenagers away from news stories, but that does not mean that you give them free reign on their own. Try to limit their exposure to scary or graphic scenes or written descriptions of the shooting and help them discuss and cope with what they do take in. Be mindful of any news coverage that you are watching or listening to in your children's presence, as well. Sometimes it's easy to forget there may be little ears lurking nearby.
Q: What can parents do to help their children the most right now?
A: There are a couple of things you can do to help your children cope with hearing about this tragedy. First, be that protective shield and limit their exposure to media stories about the shooting. For teenagers, help them process what they are hearing, seeing and reading. Second, reassure your children and teens of the steps you and their school have taken to help them be safe. You can have your children describe their schools' safety drills as a way to remind them that adults around them are planning for their safety. Obviously, we cannot prevent every tragedy, but it helps children to know that we can be better prepared.