Whether — and what — to tell your kids about Newtown
Expert tips for parents who are struggling.
By Brian at Parenting.com
Should you tell your kids?
This is the question all of us are grappling with after Friday's tragedy. The horrific Newtown school shooting is inescapable on the news, and will be for a while – a constant thrum of horror in our hearts and our souls. But we're grown ups. We'll grieve and process and move on. Still that one nagging concern remains for many of us: Do we tell our kids what happened or not?
If the news is a steady presence in your home, chances are they'll glom on to the fact that something is up. If we don't tell them and get the facts straight, they'll probably hear some version of the truth at school. But to tell them this? How?
"Adults like to have all the information and try to make sense of the horribleness. But for kids, it's too much," says Dr Gwenn O'Keeffe, pediatrician, author, health journalist, and CEO of Pediatrics Now. "We have to balance our need to keep up with our need to protect our kids."
Bearing that in mind, O'Keeffe, a member of Parenting's Editorial Advisory Board, has a handful of tips on whether – and how -– to talk to your children about what happened yesterday.
- The ages of your kids will drive whether, and what, you tell them about Newtown. "The first rule of thumb, though, is never lie to your kids," says O'Keeffe. "If they come home and ask you about it, no matter what age they are, tell them the truth. If they're 4 or 6 or 8 and they ask 'was there a school shooting and did people die?' Your answer has to be yes."
- Then you reassure them. Tell them that their school is safe, that your community is different, that there are protections in place and it will never happen to them. "Even if you're not sure that's true, you have to make sure that they believe it. They have to go to school every day."
- Ask your kids what they've heard. Even if they don't ask you about Newtown, they do go to school with older kids. Children catch wind fairly quickly when something serious is up. Some kids will luck out and not hear anything at all. But the news flows like water – it gets through cracks you don't even know are there. And facts get twisted on the playground. "The only way you're going to know if your kids have heard something is if you ask them," says O'Keeffe. When they're as young as 4, don't bring it up. But a 7-year-old will possibly have heard something. Approach her during a quiet moment or at snack time, says O'Keeffe. Gingerly broach the topic. Say something like, "There's been a lot of talk in our country that about something that happened at a school in Connecticut that was very upsetting. Has anybody talked about that at school?" If they haven't heard, let them know they can ask you anything they want.
- Remain calm. If you do tell them what happened, make sure you're coming from your calmest, most reassuring place. "Don't overload them. Don't go on a whole speech about gun control or school safety," says O'Keeffe. And give them space. They're children and they may not know how to respond right away. They may look at you and go out of the room and do something else. Maybe they'll come back and ask questions later, maybe they won't. "Allow them to have whatever response they have unless it's interfering with their ability to go through the day, it's all expected," says O'Keeffe.
- If the news is interfering with your kids or anyone in your family, "seek help right away," O'Keeffe advises. This will usually manifest in a lot of anxiety and a lot of grief, anxiousness about the safety of their family. In more serious cases, physical symptoms could include headaches, stomach aches, inability to function as usual or a reluctance to go to school. "This isn't something you'd want to wait out."
- Monitor the media intake for everyone in the family. Even if you only watch CNN when the kids are in bed, there's the chance they may not be able to get to sleep and can hear the newscaster, the interviews. Coverage of events like this can range from incredibly tactful to incredibly sensational. Be aware of who is watching what around the home, says O'Keeffe. That goes for grown-ups too. "You don't need to watch the news 24/7," she adds. "That creates overanxeity in all of us. Resist that temptation. Go about your life. That's the best thing you can do to honor these people."
News, stories, tips and laughs for moms & dads
Watch the video of Kristen Bell going head to head with paparazzi - it will make you angry
Every year, toy makers from around the world gather to show their latest creations at the Toy Fair in New York City. The high-tech models, gadgets and trinkets on display put those basic Legos we played with at kids to shame. Here are 10 new toys that we'd happily buy or children. Or, really, ourselves.
Find yourself wandering the aisles, suddenly needing an owl-shaped candle while drinking a $5 latte? You're not alone, moms...
Here's some parenting advice for whatever stage of separation or divorce you're in.
Whether you pop it in the mail or post it on social media, a creative photo is a surefire way to grab everyone’s attention and proudly say, “I’m pregnant!” Prepare for a lot of likes.
Remember the magical children’s rooms in Peter Pan and The Little Prince? These timeless novels described spaces that were enchanting and made us wish that we could inhabit the rooms ourselves. The sumptuous interiors that were filled with never-ending toys and fort-like draping may seem like a fairytale, but thanks to four of our favorite kids' furniture websites, the dream could actually become a reality. Click through the slideshow to check out the best kids furniture websites that have everything necessary to create a fantasy room for your little one. And check out Sophia Demenge's super-fun space in the video below. By Barry Samaha
They lay, they play, and they take selfies with supermodels. Meet 5 of the most social media-savvy pets—animals taking control of their own fashionable online image.
We could try to offer you carefully researched and crafted words of Dad-centric inspiration, intended to show you the path to being a better man and, in turn, a better father. But Tom Limbert took up the task for us in his new book 'Dad's Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time,' so we left it to him. Limbert -- a parent coach and the founder of the Studio Grow children's play space in Berkeley, California -- has collected pearls of wisdom from an elite crew of coaches who have not only experienced greatness themselves, but also found ways to consistently instill it in their teams. "It's monkey-see, monkey-do," Limbert told us, after we asked him to gather the best quotes on achieving one's goals. "If you want your child to follow, you have to lead." Click on to read the often simple-seeming words that have inspired countless others to follow through on the field, but that can also easily be translated to the school, work, fitness, and, of course, parenting arenas.
What parents need to know
It's raining, it's pouring ... but that doesn't mean the day has to be a snore. Rather than let the kids grow restless and rambunctious, why not divert their energy toward some fun family bonding activities? Although the weather may have scotched your original plans for the day, seize the opportunity to reconnect and let loose with your loved ones. Click through this slideshow for ten refreshing rainy day activities that'll make you glad the clouds (almost) rained on your parade.
Every family has its oddballs. And the holiday season is the one time of year when you’re pretty much forced to interact and play nice with the grand majority of them. Click through the slideshow above for our guide to dealing with the five worst kinds of kin. *Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Not great with a budget? Don't sweat it. Try these simple ways to save.