It's going to be a tough weekend for parents who have children with questions about Friday's mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. The biggest question that children and parents may be asking is "Why?" but what they may really be asking is for reassurance that they are safe.
"All children need to be able to know you are there listening to them," the American Psychologists Association (APA) advised on its website.
Dr. Paul Coleman, psychologist and author of the book "How to Say It to Your Child When Bad Things Happen" (Prentice Hall Press, 2002), offers advice specifically for parents with younger children under age 8. In his book, he tells parents to keep the explanation simple and reassure their children that they won't be shot at school.
"Parents may feel like they're lying, since no one can ever be 100 percent sure of what the future holds, but probability estimates are not something small kids can grasp, and won't comfort them," Coleman wrote.
Psychologists agree that older children may want to know how they can help. For instance, after Hurricane Sandy, young people on Tumblr donated more than $300,000 to the relief effort. Similar campaigns are already emerging to assist the Newtown community, such as a fundriser on Kickstarter-like site HopeMob.
Children may use their social media channels to keep up on the news and express their grief. But the APA cautioned parents to make sure their kids take a break from the media — and advised that parents do the same. [See also: Twitter and Facebook Grapple with Age Limits ]
"It is important to limit the amount of time spent watching the news because constant exposure may actually heighten their anxiety and fears," the APA said.
Here are some of the top online resources for parents:
Helping your children manage distress in the aftermath of a shooting
Talking About Tough Topics
A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope