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Talking to Your Kids About Connecticut School Shooting

Here are some tips from local experts and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network for talking to your children about tough subjects.

On Friday night, many dinner table conversations around the United States will likely be dominated by the .

Closer to home, the deadly shooting prompted the Los Angeles Police Department to beef up patrols near city schools on Friday.

“There is no indication of a connection with Los Angeles,” LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith said. “We train with and work with school police on an ongoing basis, and we will be providing extra patrols around schools—especially elementary schools—today.”

Los Angeles Unified School District officials issued a statement assuring the public that the safety of students and parents is the district's “number one priority.”

The Los Angeles School Police Department said that it deploys more than 200 officers throughout the district to mitigate ”all incidents that may affect student safety,” according to LAUSD.

But what if the ones asking questions about the violence are the people at the table whose feet barely reach the floor, and who will be off at an elementary school of their own come Monday morning?

The world is a complex place, but parents can take measures to reassure kids who have questions about violent or scary events in the news.

Dr. Moe Gelbart, executive director of the Thelma McMillen Center at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, said that parents should be "truthful, but age-appropriate truthful."

He recommended "reflective listening," especially when dealing with very young children. Instead of asking the child what he or she is feeling, Gelbart recommended anticipating the child's emotions and verbalizing those feelings. He said parents of young children shouldn't address the subject unless the child mentions it.

The younger the child, the more important it is to provide a sense of security, according to Gelbart. He also said that parents should hug their children and tell them they love them.

He also said hugging your children and telling them you love them is good advice.

Dr. Veronica Chavez, a clinical psychologist specializing in childhood trauma at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, cautions parents of the dangers of allowing too much exposure to violent images in the news.

"The presentation of symptoms are similar in children who have experienced trauma first-hand," said Chavez. "It's called secondary trauma. The symptoms include regression of behavior like sucking their thumb, wetting the bed, they can’t sleep sleep, affected appetite, overly fearful, they may not want to go to school."

According to Chavez, there are three important things parents can do to help mitigate their child's trauma:

  1. Don't feel like you have to talk about the event. If your kids don’t talk about it, you don’t have to.
  2. If your child brings it up, it's fine to talk about it briefly, in as age-appropriate terms as you can.
  3. Keep the TV-watching to a minimum and monitor the information your kids are receiving.

Most important, said Chavez, if a parent is uneasy, their children will be too.

Some kids are more susceptible to secondary trauma than others, said Brenda Bursch, UCLA pediatric psychologist and professor of clinical psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences.

"Kids who have experienced trauma in their past are more vulnerable," said Bursch. "And younger kids might have a harder time understanding that Connecticut is that far away."

Some kids can be worried about their own safety, said Bursch, and other kids might see it and consider it like the violence they see on TV shows and think nothing of it.

Read more:

Tips from Support Networks and Agencies

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a 24-hour counseling hotline that can be reached by phone at 1-800-985-5990 and by text message (Text ‘TalkWithUs’ to 66746) "to U.S. residents who are experiencing psychological distress as a result of a natural or man-made disasters, incidents of mass violence or any other disasters." For more information on the hotline, click here. A PDF with advice on talking to children and adolescents who are coping with traumatic stress is attached to this article, and also available here.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network offers some tips for parents of children who display symptoms of stress as a result of news of the shooting:

1. Learn about the common reactions that children have to traumatic events.

2. Consult a qualified mental health professional if your child’s distress continues for several weeks. Ask your child’s school for an appropriate referral.

3. Assure your child of his or her safety at home and at school. Talk with him or her about what you’ve done to make him or her safe at home and what the school is doing to keep students safe.

4. Reassure your child that he or she is not responsible. Children may blame themselves for events, even those completely out of their control.

5. Allow your child to express his or her fears and fantasies verbally or through play. That is a normal part of the recovery process.

6. Maintain regular home and school routines to support the process of recovery, but make sure your child continues going to school and stays in school.

7. Be patient. There is no correct timetable for healing. Some children will recover quickly. Other children recover more slowly. Try not to push him or her to “just get over it,” and let him or her know that he or she should not feel guilty or bad about any of his or her feelings.

City News Service contributed to this report.

not Carl Peterson lll December 16, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Anyone else notice Obama was pretending to cry? I mean really...why? One of the basics one learns in acting class is, DON'T ACT....BE!! He acted crying with the purposefull movement of the fingers under the eye. That's what is called indicating. If he had a real tear, he would not move the finger so outwordly, and with no tear by the way. When people are acting,in real life, they almost always are trying to show you something, instead of "being" that something, which is more subtle. Any acting students or teachers out their that know this?
Neil C. Reinhardt December 16, 2012 at 06:47 AM
AS SOME OF MY COMMENTS PROVIDING FACTUAL INFORMATION HAVE BEEN DELEATED, THIS SITE MUST BE RUN BY SOME PRO-CENSORSHIP AND ANTI- AMERICAN PROGRAMMED RELGIOUS ROBOTS!
nonoise December 16, 2012 at 06:50 AM
Buz, I don't think Obama was acting. He is not that good of an actor. This is one time I think he was sincere.
nonoise December 16, 2012 at 06:54 AM
Always right, thanks for the apology. I am still waiting for an apology from Father Marco Ortiz for taking me to court. (he Lost). That was cruel. And, I am waiting for apologies from the rest of his catholic church for all the lies they said in court and in court documents. Lies, lies, lies, your right they can go to hell for lying. I am still waiting for apologies from them. I will not hold my breath. All those victims of child molestrations are still waiting for their apologies too.
nonoise December 16, 2012 at 06:56 AM
People that claim they are from God are not, they show it in their actions.
Always Right December 16, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Just in case you missed this response above. Neil, you can be whatever you want to be behind that computer screen. Yeah, I believe you were all those things in that long long life of yours. Sure I do. I'd be more than happy to call you a fool to your face if I could. Go back to bed old man, don't forget your prunes. Oh, Jesus still loves you. Lol Your comments were probably removed becasue they are silly ramblings of a sick mind. This is a private site, and therefore censorship laws do not apply and what is posted is up to them. If you were really all that smart you would know that. Jesus loves you. God bless and Merry Christmas.
Always Right December 16, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Again, simply not true. God bless you.
Lash LaRue December 16, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I think all teachers, day-care staff, and other adults in loco parentis for groups of children should be required to carry firearms on the job. Maintaining continued proficiency at rapid-reaction tactical shooting should be a condition of their continued employment. Their job is to protect children; if they are not physically, mentally, and morally competent to do that job, they don’t belong in it. I doubt any explanation of the threat model is needed. But I will point out that the Israelis require schoolteachers to be armed – and the only successful terrorist attack in memory on a group of Israeli schoolkids happened after the teachers, on a field trip, allowed themselves to be disarmed at a Jordanian border post.
nonoise December 16, 2012 at 07:32 PM
Always right, your bible says, "by their fruits you shall know them". Do you disagree with your own bible? Or, may be your bible is not "always right"? Is that what your saying?
Gretchen Kix December 16, 2012 at 07:32 PM
totally agree. I noticed that fake finger thing.
nonoise December 16, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Just look at the child molestators from the catholic church. Do you think they were from god? "by their fruits you shall know them." Look it up. Read your own bible or are you just one of those that pretend?
Tim Ryder December 16, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Your comment doesn't make any sense...what does the 'pledge of allegiance' have to do with the price of tea in China?
Always Right December 16, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Read your statement dude. Could it be more broad based? I think not!! I guess I may have to get mean again!! You are clearly not very bright. God bless you. I'm done with you. Oh, the bible, is perfect, and is always right. You'll know it one day or suffer the consequences.
nonoise December 16, 2012 at 07:46 PM
I will clarify my statement, SOME people that claim to be from god are NOT. Since you say the bible is correct, then you know which ones are which by their actions.
Tim Ryder December 16, 2012 at 07:50 PM
For once I agree with 'nonoise' (whoever you are) that it is a cop-out to say that the 'Devil' made him do it. The fact is that a 'human-being' committed this horrible act and none other. Unfortunately, it's our high intelligence and technological know-how which enables a few deranged among us to commit mass murder. Of course, one must also ask where God was during this and why he didn't step in to prevent this 'evil' from happening in the first place..
Always Right December 16, 2012 at 07:53 PM
Nonoise, it's been that way since the beginning of time. So what is your point? Never mind, it makes no difference what your point is, I simply don't care what your point is. God bless.
Adrian December 16, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Always Right, are you joking? Adding "God" just adds yet another divisive source of contention. Not everyone rides the same train of belief, and this creates a new layer of complication to an already unstable social ground. And worse, when you equip some with "divine authority", more and more personal accountability goes out the window. "God told me to eradicate the heathens" is a pretty strong motivating force to harm others.
Always Right December 16, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Oh please!!! They don't need to ride the same train of belief. I can't understand the liberal progressive mind. It's your way of thinking that has turned this country in the wrong direction. You will see one day that turning your back on God was not a good idea. I don't care a bit if you believe that or not. God bless you and Merry Christmas!!
Jasmine December 16, 2012 at 09:04 PM
This is an excellent OPPORTUNITY to TEACH INVALUABLE lessons to our children. It is ESSENTIAL to let children (especially very young children) know that they are SAFE, that public places are VERY SAFE and that this incident was an EXTREMELY RARE occurrence. It is important to emphasize that it is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY the child or anyone the childe knows will ever be in such a situation. Additionally, this heinous situation can be used to teach DEFENSIVE STRATEGIES and SURVIVAL TACTICS to children. Parents can teach actions for a child to take if they are in a similar situation, as well as how to deal with someone they anticipate might be capable of such behaviour. Also, emphasizing character development -- integrity and responsibility to the community rather than celebrity -- will do much to build children's reputation and that will build their self-confidence. In response to "Why would someone behave in such a way?" parents should start by saying the person may have been angry but never learned how to deal with that anger in a healthy and constructive manner. That is why when you misbehave, you have to ______ .
not Carl Peterson lll December 17, 2012 at 12:51 AM
WHAT? your ears are getting raped by the Catholic church???.......And six times a day!!!!!!
Galactic Cannibal December 17, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Prayers will not stop murders, or stop using guns to kill people. Your so called GOD is a invented mental crutch that can do nothing or will do nothing. But banning guns will stop the part of this American disease to stick with a 220 year old law the 2nd Amendment. Created in a time when the young US was a festering murderous sewer. Technology has moved all countries on, since then, including firearms that we can reload in 10 seconds,that can kill 10,20, 30, people in less than 30 seconds, versus the single shot flintlock gun of 2nd Amendment time, that took 2 minutes to reload after each bullet was fired, with had extremely poor accuracy Like I say we Americans seem to be stuck mentally in that festering murderous sewer of the 2nd Amendment times. Why is that, and don't give me that crap about been safer having a gun. Are we at WAR with each other ? Oh I forgot we are at WAR with Afghanistan as the invaders And by this time next year in the US, another 11,000 residents will be murdered using a gun, Forget the prayers dudes and dudettes, BAN the guns, but just do something, for only the people can change the status quo. I feel great sorry at the murdering of the children , any child. And even worse, the American masses will not bat an eye lid over these 11,000 killed by guns in the next 12 months., UNLESS there is a large number of victims shot at one time , just like in this latest massacre in Connecticut.
not Carl Peterson lll December 17, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Hey Galactic C. Is your comment an attempt to inform and change opinion, or a sort of blowing of steam? I think as with many comments here, it blows off steam. Also it looks to me like you have grouped the 2nd ammendment and religion as a single group. Then telling the religious that God is a made up mental crutch immediately loses the whole group you are targetting. Some of my own posts have been like this, more of a jab at one side rather than to influence. And as with some of my posts this will influence no one, but will bring the other side up to the battle line. If you enjoy that, OK.
Always Right December 17, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Galactic C, Evil does not exist within a gun. It exists in the minds of those who pull the trigger for evil purposes. God bless you, and Merry Christmas.
Ponce de Leon December 17, 2012 at 01:47 AM
@Lash LaRue - You are leaving out an important fact. All teachers in Israel have spent two years in the military and they live in a very different situation than most people in the US. Unless you are going to make military service a prerequisite for K-12 teachers in the US, it's not going to happen here. Many people who choose to be teachers and school administrators may do so because they care about children, but in my experience with hundreds of teachers, not many are interested in being armed on the job.
Galactic Cannibal December 17, 2012 at 02:10 AM
Buzlightyear aka marty: Dude from a logic stand point you are correct.
Galactic Cannibal December 17, 2012 at 02:20 AM
What is the logic of allowing every American to buy and own a gun. Like say a glock pistol with 17 shot magazine. or a high powered rife with 15 shot magazine. I would like to hear a logical answer. On the basis of equal population count . For every One(1) person murdered in the EU by a person using a gun, Five(5) are murdered in the USA. In the EU guns are generally banned . In the USA guns are not banned. How long more will we allow this murderous carnage go on in the USA ???
Galactic Cannibal December 17, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Always right ......Hey Dude If the killer of these children did not have access to guns , but say to a sword or a knife .It would have been near impossible for him to have killed 26 people in the space of minutes. Some persons would have brought him down . But the ease at which he was able to murder 26 people was directly due to the weapon he used , a gun. Imagine him trying to swing a sword as the teachers threw chairs and other objects at him. We send our armies into war in Afghanistan with guns NOT swords or base ball bats. Guns make it so much easier for the murderer to kill its victim. Why can't Americans understand that fact
Always Right December 17, 2012 at 02:36 AM
First of all, not every American can buy and own a gun. Our constitution gives those that can the right to do so. Sure you may be able to,with the help of liberal progressives, ban certain types of weapons. To ban all guns you would have to change the constitution. That will never happen period nor should it. If you don't want a gun, don't buy one.
Galactic Cannibal December 17, 2012 at 02:45 AM
I voted twice for Pres Obama and would do a 3rd time if allowed. But I will agree that his cry looked a bit unreal. the very few times I have cried tears roll down my cheek. I saw no tear on Pres Obama's face.. why was that ?
Matthew Sanderson (Editor) December 17, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Thanks for your contributions. We are now closing this discussion. You are welcome to view the conversation about gun legislation over here http://patch.com/A-0wNV

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