Dr. Hayley B. Sherwood: Parents should encourage their child to talk about their concerns and express their feeling about school's shooting. Every child responds differently. Some have immediate reactions, while others have delayed reactions that appear days weeks or even months after the event, while some never react at all.
Sometimes a child or teen maybe reluctant to initiate a conversation. So you may need to check in to see how he or she is feeling. Keep in mind that the age of your child makes a difference in how you talk about the tragedy.
For a preschooler we assure your child that you and others in the community will do all you can to make sure he or she is safe. Help your child to remember and identify how much safety there in his or her life. If your child has not seen or heard media reports, do not bring it up, however if your child's behavior suddenly changes or he of she is afraid to go to preschool or daycare you can ask if he or she has seen or heard something that is scaring them then you need to talk about it.
With a school aged child after a school shooting it is important to be honest but be sure information age appropriate. Let your child know the event was not their fault and that whatever he or she is feeling is okay. Offer your child opportunities to talk about the incident, reassure your child that something like that will probably never happen to him of her and that you will be here to keep him of her as safe as you can.
With an adolescent talk directly about the tragedy and answer questions truthfully, let your teenager know it is okay to express their feelings, explain the distinction between being different from other students and having serious problems that lead to extreme violence, talk with your teenager about steps that can be taken to keep schools safe.
After a college shooting it is important to let your child know that you're thinking about him or her and show your support with phone calls emails and cards. Encourage your child to talk with friends, classmates and professor about how he of she is feeling. Find out about college counseling services and how your child can access them. Ask what the college is doing to help students cope during this difficult time and encourage your child to get involved in activities planed in response to the tragedy.
The older the child the more effective it is to talk about your own feelings first. If you express your own feelings of anger, sadness, fear guilt and confusion it may help your child open up.