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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 coverage 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.

On Friday in response to the shooting, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed ordered flags to be flown at half-staff. In a statement, Reed 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.”

In Midtown, Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson released the following statement:

"On behalf of the Georgia Tech community, we want to express our deepest sympathies to the people of Connecticut. Our hearts go out to the friends and families of the innocent victims lost in the senseless tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School. All of us who are entrusted with the education and welfare of our nation’s children and young people share in your loss. We are connected to you through our hundreds of current students and alumni from Connecticut. We will continue to hold you close to our hearts and honor the memory of those lost to us today."

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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