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Yuba Psychologist Gives Tips For Discussing Tragedy With Children

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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Flags are flying at half-staff at the state capitol, and across the country after the president ordered flags to be lowered to honor the nearly 30 lives lost in the Connecticut school shooting.

Now, parents across the country will have to answer tough questions from their children about the Newtown tragedy.

It’s a discussion no parent wants to have with their children, but there will almost certainly be questions after 20 elementary school children were gunned down in the middle of a school day Friday morning.

“You don’t want to think about that happening, especially with little kids,” said one parent.

The tragedy in Newtown is impossible for any of us to really understand. Now parents are trying to figure out what, and how to tell their children.

“Certainly you talk to your kids about these sorts of things, but what do you do in a situation like this?” parent Yolanda Milliken asked.

The answer to that is unclear. Yuba City psychologist Dr. Craig West, who specializes in child psychology, says there is no handbook for how to explain this situation to a child. But generally, the younger the child, the fewer the details should be.

“You might want to give answers, such as there is a bad man, he hurt some kids at the school, some of the kids died,” said West.

Dr. West says it’s important for parents to remind children their school is safe.

“Ask them about things they like at their school, the playground. Remember the teacher is going to be there, your best friend is going to be there, and you’re not alone,” he said.

It’s not just children who are scared, but parents too.

“It could happen anywhere,” said Milliken.

West suggests having a family discussion, benefitting not only children but their parents too.

“This can be frightening, and it’s ok to be frightened; and to make sure everyone understands that in the family,” said West.

He also suggests working on a positive response, sending cards to the victims, or setting up a donation drive. He says turning this negative into a positive can be a big part of the healing process.

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