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Connecticut School Shooting: How to Discuss with Your Children

27 people, 18 of them children, are reported dead in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to Newtown Patch. What will you say to your children?

Parents' hearts are in their throats in Walton and Gwinnett counties and across the country as news spreads of an elementary school shooting in Connecticut that reportedly took the lives of 18 children and nine adults.

Newtown Patch in Connecticut is posting live updates about the shooting, which was reportedly carried out by a single adult who is now dead.

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.

You can follow Newtown Patch for live updates from Connecticut.

Amy December 14, 2012 at 10:08 PM
My condolences to the families of the victims.
Sharon Swanepoel December 14, 2012 at 10:41 PM
It is almost incomprehensible. I just don't know how to express how I feel about this. Sympathy to the families obviously, but absolute shock at the evil involved.
Good Grief Y'all December 15, 2012 at 12:48 PM
This tragedy is too horrible to comprehend. My heart breaks for all the families who lost their own and for the entire town, for this nation, too.
thcooper69 December 15, 2012 at 12:57 PM
gun control does need to start and it needs to start in tha schools . all these trouble makers have started there problems and odd behavior in tha school ,teachers have even said THEY noticed it yet said nuthin ,what need to happen is a file made on each kid following him or her from life and a nationwide comp system be put in place to keep track of the trench coat kids , teachers than then put a red flag on student that follows kid and when a kid goes to buy a gun .red flag indicates that this person neeeds a psy evaluation prior to buying a gun . psy evaluations need to be givin ,the kids that cut on themselves or are mean to animals or have threatened suicide or threatened suicide on twitter or facebook need to be put under the magnifyin glass .with parents these days raising there kids with no prayer or morals or commonsence its time tha guberment step up and obama bot spell it out fo themb
Racer X December 15, 2012 at 02:50 PM
This is the saddest thing I have heard of in many years. My heart goes out to the parents and families of those lost. My 9 year old asked about this. I sat down with her and we talked it out. I believe the most important thing is to validate our children's feelings about this and talk it out. She has always been taught about situational awareness and the importance of remaining calm in an emergency in order to act in the best interest of her own survival and those around her. She did ask me a question that I found interesting. She wanted to know how the 20 year old got into the school with his weapons when the school has a "no guns" law? I explained to her that it was also illegal for someone his age to even own the kind of guns he had and he had transported them across State lines, which is also against the law. My wonderful little girl then made the observation that laws cannot protect us from people who disregard them. Of course I agreed and we talked about the shooter likely being mentally ill and that we, as a nation, need to address mental illness more seriously, paying attention to symptoms and working on prevention. I left the conversation open and asked her to not hesitate to discuss any more thoughts she has on the matter.
Sharon Swanepoel December 15, 2012 at 02:59 PM
Great approach Racer X. It's difficult for anyone to comprehend such a tragedy at the moment.
Jamie Dempsey December 15, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Racer X- good job! I have wondered how children were reacting to this event... and have had occasion yesterday and today to hear some parents talking TO (and others IN FRONT OF) their children... In response to THCOOPER, above, one thing I found when I looked into some of this yesterday, was VERY startling- CT, as a state, has some of the strictest gun control laws in the Union. Pondering THAT, I think that there is a deeper wound here that needs to be addressed...PEOPLE control. By that, I mean that my generation (I'm 39) and my parents' (The baby boomers), seem to have taken an attitude of almost blatant hippie child-raising: Kids raise themselves (latch-key), there are no consequences to actions (I'm ok, you're ok), everyone's a winner (trophies for sport PARTICIPATION), etc...
Jamie Dempsey December 15, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Unfortunately, and I am still to this day finding out- that's NOT how the world works. As some people do, they can't handle it. . .we have a responsibility to our children to RAISE them... AT ALL...but even more importantly, in a manner that allows them to cope with their own successes and failures... to control themselves, so the rest of us aren't looking over our shoulders for the rest of our lives. Finally- those of you who know me know I am not a big supporter of our current US administration or a fan of larger government, more taxes, more entitlement, or more regulation...but I must say I was impressed by our President's speech in response. He truly seemed a FATHER, not a politician.
Tammy Osier December 15, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Thank you Jamie. Here's the deal. I work in intervention. Small amounts of intervention are a good thing-always a good thing. But there are kids who need huge amounts of help that after school programs don't fix. Those are the ones that go off the deep end because nobody wants to take the time to dig deeper and find out what triggers their violence and sometimes psychosis (or at least find out that there is need of psychiatric help). So, they get passed over. Prgrams that can unseat these things get squashed because either they aren't deemed important, funding runs out or in the case of the recent issue, no one wants it in their backyard. When I worked in the boot camp, we worked very closely with the family, we even had a psychologist on board. The accountability was incredible. Parents could not just dump them off on us and expect us to fix the problem. Our parent support was fantastic! When we had to present what we did to the state for funding, bringing along tissues for the tears were in order, as many times there was not a dry eye in the house as parents (and grandparents) testified of a child who assaulted them and on drugs previously was finally making good grades, working in the home and whose attitude had dramatically changed. Those might have been kids you'd see in the news had someone not intervened. I'd like to see someone pay more attention to programs that actually work.
Tammy Osier December 15, 2012 at 05:51 PM
To clarify - Jamie hit the nail on the head with this statement: CT. as a state, has some of the strictest gun control laws in the Union. Pondering THAT, I think that there is a deeper wound here that needs to be addressed...PEOPLE control. That's what I was referring to, although the rest of the posts were also very, very good and I stand in complete agreement. Jamie, I hope that as this issue will inevitably turn into a month long drivel on gun control laws that you will contribute. You re right on and you seem to have a good grasp on all of this. And RacerX- sounds like your young lady has a very mature head on her shoulders. Obviously, she didn't just suddenly come up with a conviction on personal responsibility from one conversation. She is obviously raised right. Good job.
Good Grief Y'all December 15, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Legal firearms are too often owned by careless people who allow access to them by minors, someone with a criminal bent or desperate for drugs, or someone mentally impaired. Then they're stolen by someone and used in a mass killing, or picked up by kids who shoot themselves or others. The shooter in CT shot his own mother with her legally obtained guns, according to news reports. I think this case, like most mass shootings, points to mental health issues first, but there is a firearms problem as well. The mother of the mentally deranged shooter (apparently-according to his brother he had a history of mental health problems), had guns in the house. Why did he have access to them if she knew he was disturbed? Maybe she was afraid of him and had them for her protection. More facts will come out, so all this is speculation. Guns locked up aren't accessible for protection in the home, and when they're accessible they can fall into the wrong hands. You can't enforce safe handling inside someone's home. It's also a cultural problem. Violence is entertainment for many. Kids are exposed to violent TV shows, movies, video games, comic books, etc., nearly all their lives, and some become jaded, those with mental illness may act upon what they've soaked up. There are no easy answers or quick solutions. No one's to blame, and everyone's to blame, except the innocent lives lost.
Tammy Osier December 15, 2012 at 10:43 PM
To be honest, I wondered the same thing. Why did she own so many firearms? Was she afraid of him? I agree, there are so many who are not responsible. However, I've got to go with our focus being on mental illness and how we treat it in our society. There are many laws that govern this that make me shudder. For instance, many types of psychosis cannot be committed since there is medication to control it. What if he/she lives on their own and doesn't take their meds and theirs is an extreme form? What then? For this young man, he had a personality disorder which is far more dangerous than another psychosis. A psychosis can be controlled by medication (for instance, schizophrenia). A personality disorder is cannot be controlled. Most personality disorders are very controlling people and extremely self absorbed - to the point of being in their own world. Unfortunately, they cannot be controlled by medication. Couplethat with being out in front of a television or video game and WOW. I don't know. No easy answers.
Jamie Dempsey December 15, 2012 at 10:58 PM
GOOD GRIEF- you proved my point. The PEOPLE CONTROL is not there if citizens are allowing their firearms to be ANYWHERE that is not in their responsible control. I'm not a HUGE gun fan (yes I own a couple), but I do also realize that pencils don't misspell words. This isn't, and shouldn't be, a gun-control debate, at this level OR at the Federal or state level- it is a debate of how to not allow the inmates run the asylum (ie: kids raising themselves, like Lord of the Flies), and then becoming sociopathic adults who don't know how to interact with others. And I agree that TV violence, and video games in general numb people to violence, and create an outlet where kids (and adults) don't HAVE to interact socially for entertainment. . . What scares me is that these days, some of the kids that DO build forts in the woods. . . sometimes are out there skinning cats, because no one ever told them not to. "but dear, we don't want to bruise their egos!" I'm sorry- I'll step off my soap box. I'm just distraught- we should be giving prayers and positive energy to our neighbors in CT. . . who put their kids on the bus with EVERY expectation that just like always, they would scamper right off in the afternoon, with colored pictures and runny noses, in anticipation of Christmas Holiday. Here's a suggestion for ALL of us: Hug your kids. And each other. Be blessed.
Sharon Swanepoel December 15, 2012 at 11:14 PM
I'm with you on this one Jamie. There's a lot of responsibility to go around - but a large part of our problem is that we don't ever lay blame at the foot of the perpetrator. We've taught our children that nothing is their fault - it's always someone or something else that is to blame. There's no accountability. We've raised a generation that believes they are entitled to a trophy, even if they didn't win and they should pass at school, even when they turned in failing grades. Heck, we even have teachers who cheat to get them through. So when life steps up and hands them a real disappointment, they don't know how to deal with it. We have another generation coming up, I hope we figure it out by the time they're old enough to do any more damage. All that being said, I am amazed every day by awesome people from that same generation who shine, achieve and give so much of themselves. It isn't fair to generalize, but the more this happens, the more we have to look at the big picture, not just the individuals.
Amy December 16, 2012 at 12:39 AM
I'm against gun ownership because I hate guns. With that said, if there are people who would prefer to own a gun and the law permits it, I don't think we should stop EVERYBODY from owning guns. Other than George Zimmerman, most people who kill with guns weren't supposed to have it to begin with.
Tammy Osier December 16, 2012 at 12:51 AM
Apparently, the same day in China, someone went onto a school with a big knife and killed a lot of people and children (over 20). It's almost as if a message is being sent that the problem is with violence and rage within people and the question is, "what can be done to prevent a person from going wack enough to do a violent act against another human being"?
Jamie Dempsey December 16, 2012 at 12:54 AM
I have no children, but have always have been in awe of the bravery of a parent letting go of a child's hand each day, hoping that they will find, if not love, then at least basic decency and respect. What's happened is unspeakable. Again, is why I was actually able to relate with POTUS for once. Charles Dickens once wrote, "There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast." I hope that the boomers realize that they needed to be the light. . . that the GenX'ers LEARN to be the light before it's too late, and that the youngest generation basks in that light, and shines it forward. . . And Amy- I can respect your position- gun control only affects those who would follow the laws in the first place. (besides, I'd ban seafood, since shellfish makes my throat close! lol)
John B December 16, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Tammy: I'm not sure we will never know what triggers this kind of behavior nor am I convinced that we could completely mitigate an outcome as this one through preventative measures. Since this appears to be happening more frequently in the past 20 years or so what's your thoughts on the copy cat thing? It has to be playing out in this somewhere. And maybe not just copy cat but who can go one up...be more famous? Just a thought.
Good Grief Y'all December 16, 2012 at 12:32 PM
You can't keep citizens from owning as many guns as they want, and you can't control how they manage them. Maybe we could lessen the likelihood of tragedies if there were more focus on responsible gun ownership and management. The NRA could do its members and this nation a great service by stepping up right now and promoting education, training and responsibility in ownership. There should be a national campaign from them in TV ads, print and internet ads, in gun shops and at sales. Maybe people who are into guns or use them in their jobs become too routine with them. There recently was an incident where a police officer's child was killed after getting dad's gun. Accidents like that are tragic and heartbreaking. Mass killings are devastating and have a broad reach. Mental illness, rage and easy access to guns are a bad combination. Street thugs are not going into schools, malls and workplaces to kill. Those tragedies are at the hands of profound evil or deranged minds. We'll never stop all of these horrors, but to do nothing is inconceivable. It's past time to put politics aside and have a national conversation about killing.
Good Grief Y'all December 16, 2012 at 12:41 PM
And, Jamie, thank you for your thoughtful words about the President's moving and heartfelt speech after this terrible happening. It is indeed rare to see positive comments about him in this region. I first saw it on the internet and could see the tears in his eyes before he wiped them away. They were real.
Jamie Dempsey December 16, 2012 at 02:00 PM
JOHN B above, mentioned copycats. This is a concern I have as well. As a sometimes-journalist 3 years out of Journalism School during the Columbine massacre, we had learned the power of the press, and the effect that it can have on those who want notoriety. At that time, there had not been a lot of precedent like there is now, and the press played a LARGE part, IMO, in creating copycats. . .one of which was in OUR back yard, at Heritage HS, in Conyers, a mere couple of weeks later. While this isn't aimed at you, Sharon, or at Patch in general, I would encourage journalists to not romanticize or OVER stimulate any other nutbags out there who might get the idea that they,too can become famous. Whether we look at it from the angle of mental illness, thuggery (like the case a couple of years ago (I can't remember where) when a guy went into a school with a claw hammer), or ACTUAL evil, we, as a society, have to take SOME sene of responsibility to not exacerbate the situation. . . Because, unfortunately, the IS actual, real, tangible evil in the world. My friends in South Georgia would say, "Why would you poke the alligator in the eyeball?"
Jamie Dempsey December 16, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Also- regarding gun control, school massacres, et al (from Wikipedia): The Bath School disaster in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927, which killed 38 elementary school children, two teachers, four other adults and the bomber himself; at least 58 people were injured. Most of the victims were children in the second to sixth grades (7–11 years of age[1]) attending the Bath Consolidated School. Their deaths constitute the deadliest mass murder in a school in U.S. history. The bomber was school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe, 55, who was enraged about a property tax levied to fund the construction of the school building.
Jamie Dempsey December 16, 2012 at 02:25 PM
On the morning of May 18, Kehoe murdered his wife by beating her to death, then set his farm buildings afire. As fire fighters arrived at his farm, an explosion devastated the north wing of the school building, killing many schoolchildren. Kehoe had used a detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers started gathering at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and detonated a bomb inside his shrapnel-filled vehicle with his Winchester rifle, killing himself and the school superintendent, and killing and injuring several others. During rescue efforts searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds (230 kg) of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol in the basement of the school's south wing. Kehoe apparently had intended to blow up and destroy the whole school. In other words- no guns. and EVIL has been around for a long time- while this isn't NEW, it IS becoming more regular.
Tammy Osier December 16, 2012 at 04:26 PM
GGy- in this season of miracles, let me offer you one. I agree with you 100% on everything you have said here. :) I think the NRA can step up now, as GGY said. But you know, they will find great opposition; I just hope they do it anyway. This would be a great time for the mental health associations to make an impact. This would be a good time to make changes in the mental health laws. When I have time, I'll post what our laws say about people with psychosis and the help they receive. We have to be aware of warning signs and as families, not hide our heads in the ground if it happens to be a loved one. Hard choices. Hard stuff to live with.
Good Grief Y'all December 16, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Christmas miracle, indeed, Tammy! Thanks! Too bad it's under these sad circumstances, huh?
Tammy Osier December 16, 2012 at 09:32 PM
No kidding. I think you said it once, that we all have more in common than we don't. Ithink we get ruled by emotion, and type away, and are probably meaner in writing than we are in real life lol.
Tammy Osier December 16, 2012 at 09:34 PM
GGy- I found the info on the mental health laws I was talking about and OMG. If Patch decides to go with it, it will be a doozy. The laws are not in the best interest of the public nor the mentally ill. They were changed for all the wrong reasons.
Good Grief Y'all December 16, 2012 at 09:45 PM
We all just need to step back from politics and think from the position of common sense and actions based on the Golden Rule on all issues, but especially this immediate topic.
Good Grief Y'all December 16, 2012 at 09:46 PM
I know I'm not qualified to tackle that subject. I hope and pray the right people will! And soon!

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