December 17th, 2012
05:27 PM ET

Six tools to help kids deal with the Sandy Hook shootings

It's the first day back in class since a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and  questions aren't necessarily getting easier to answer. Just as parents and teachers want to know why 20 children and six educators died, many kids are trying to piece together what happened and what it means.

Here are tools, guidance and suggestions to help you decide how to talk about with the kids in your life, whether in class or at home.

1) CNN Student News devoted Monday's 10-minute episode to explaining and reflecting on the shooting and its aftermath. Student News is a free, commercial-free, daily news show for middle and high school classrooms. Some students who wanted to type out thoughts, questions, reflections and prayers are sharing on the CNN Student News A to Z blog, as well.

2) Know the signs of anxiety and fear. Children of different age groups express emotions in different ways, whether they're directly affected or traumatized by conversations and media. Here are suggestions for how to handle each age group, and what signs reveal they're still struggling.

"It is minute by minute, case by case. It's really a matter of listening and responding in a way that fits the framework of their understanding," said Dr. John B. Lochridge, an Atlanta-based child and family psychiatrist.

3) Some are wondering, should you even tell your kids about the shootings? Should you leave the news on? Don't lie, experts warn, but remember that what helps adults might hurt young people: "Adults like to have all the information and try to make sense of the horribleness. But for kids, it's too much," said 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."

4) Know that most kids can bounce back from a single traumatic incident, even if they were directly affected by a tragedy like a school shooting, said James Garbarino, professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago and author of "Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them." For those kids, it's helpful to get back to a routine and get proper support.

5) "Persistent, quiet, calm attention: This is what our children need from us in the wake of this horror, and what we owe one another as we stumble along trying to figure out what to do about it all,"  Michael Y. Simonis, a psychotherapist, school counselor and founder of Practical Help for Parents wrote in a piece for this weekend. "Deep listening, rather than quickly speaking (or cajoling, warning, or advising our children and each other) may provide the time we need to experience our 'nobler instincts' in the face of all-too-human grief and loss."

6) As a parent or educator, make sure you're taking care of yourself, too. Some are sharing their tributes and feelings on CNN iReport. Others are offering to help - or finding resources to help themselves - through CNN's Impact Your World.

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Filed under: Issues • School violence
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Nietodarwin

    This article never mentions anything about "god" or religion, and that is a great thing. I am among a growing number of people that believe that talking about "a god that doesn't exist" is a form of mental illness, a delusion, and mental illness is what caused all these deaths. It's very encouraging to see that this article stays quite scientific, humane, and delusion free.

    December 21, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Jamie Ballenger

      I suppose you will have us included in Mr Lapierre's proposed database of the mentally ill. jb.

      December 22, 2012 at 4:54 am |
  2. Jewellers Tools

    Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News?
    I've been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

    December 20, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  3. Connor

    This tragedy has really touch my heart. Just thinking about it makes me sad and makes me think of my Family and friends. I have been and will continue to pray for the people that were lost at that school.

    December 18, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  4. Howie

    The shooting was a terrible thought, I never thought it was real at first but 20 children and 6 adults losing their lives educating children and learning is not what it should come to.

    December 18, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
  5. Tyler

    I feel so sorry for every family member of each of those little kids and the staff, no one should have to go through what they are going through, I cannot know how much sorrow these people must be feeling and my heart goes out to them. Acts of violence happen all around to world to every kind of person, in this case it was a bunch of harmless kids, kids who sadly had to face the grim reality of this world. I'm just glad that the psycopath who did this is dead. All schools I hear are now taking extra precautions and thats a good thing for the future, but not so good for the past and present. My heart goes out to every single person grieving in Newtown.

    December 18, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
  6. Anastasia

    It is hard to watch anything about this kind of thing. I am praying for all the mothers and fathers that lost a kid. I do not thing we should get rid of guns. Guns to so people are really bad to have but some people use it to protect there family. God bless the United States. And i hope all the families that lost a kid i hope you know that they are in a safe place WITH GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

    December 18, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  7. Sohan

    people should stop carrying guns including police its not safe for kids being scared at school all day

    December 18, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • Shaan

      Your right

      December 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Anastasia


      December 18, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
      • Lila

        Not every1 can protect with or without a gun- but not every1 is crazie to do such a thing..I'd Feel safer with a can be useful if used for the right reason.

        December 22, 2012 at 1:16 am |
  8. Drew

    We shouldn't take away our guns. Hunters need them to help reduce the growing animal population. What we need to focus on is the people that need mental help. We do treat them, but we don't treat them good enough. Guns don't kill people. People kill people.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
    • Shaan

      You're an idiot

      December 18, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  9. Corinne

    People say that they have guns for protection, but if we get rid of all of the guns, then nobody will get hurt. These poor little children don't have the right to die! 🙁

    December 18, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  10. chriatian

    why do people have to do this typ of things all their doing is makeing the world a worse place kids are going to be scared because school is spose to be saft but now tat this has happened they will be scared of school and other people in the city.

    December 18, 2012 at 6:55 am |
  11. Helen

    There is a strong wave of cruelty and hatred being spread throughout this nation, causing things like this to occur. I no longer look up to my favorite actresses and singers, I look up to those who sacrificed their own lives and protected such young and innocent children from a man who's sick enough to carelessly shoot what he once was. A child. A curious wonder. An innocence.

    December 17, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  12. Ashley

    It truly hurts me to learn that someone would be so cruel as to take the lives of such young people. They were our future. They could have been our children's teachers or doctors someday, or maybe even the President of our cruel nation. It breaks my heart to think that those children could have been my little sisters, and imagining the pain that would bring to my town and my family members. Something is truly wrong with the world, and we should do something to make it right.

    December 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  13. Cameron

    I think that they should have guards guarding the schools at all times on the outside of the doors and on the inside. I also think they should have alarms that can be pulled from the office if an intruder is entering the building and they also could build police stations closer to schools so that schools can be helped much quicker.

    December 17, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
  14. oldteacher

    I have referred to them as "my kids" forever..... it sometimes confuses folks who think I'm actually talking about my biological kids... and then I laugh and clarify...laughing aside, THEY ARE MY KIDS. One day the cops came to school and one of "my kids" asked for advice as he was soon to be interviewed. When I told him his mom should be there he told me she couldn't get off work and that I was "his other mom"......and as I teared up, I realized .....I was. One day there was an altercation in my room, a normally "good" kid went off. Five minutes later, after security had been called my students told me that "he" was ready to hit me. WHAT? I said, He was not.....and then remembered as I shoved him toward the chalk board and away from punching another, "he" HAD had his fists clenched........ and yet.... he was, my child and I KNEW he would never had hit me, and indeed he did not. He walked out to meet the police and owned his behavior (related to his grandma dying that morning, the woman who was raising him)...... They are ALL my kids.. WE love them, we worry about them and we will protect them. People think we just teach.... it's so much more than that.... we are the kind listening ear... we are support in times of turmoil...we give advice and guidance.... and even when they annoy us.... we worry about them.... and we love them. I am not surprised about the actions by the adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School .... I'm just so surprised that America is.

    December 17, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  15. Rock

    These children did not deserve this and our prayers should be with their families right now. What we need to do now is really take a look at the mentally challenged and disabled. Yes these weapons were easily accessible to Adam but he was also autistic and had mental problems. Taking away our weapons will create a national uproar for those who own weapons in regards to self-defense. We need to take a good look at these people who are mentally disabled and keep them from these guns or not accessible to them. This will not be a 100% guarantee that these will not happen again, but it could possibly make a big difference. Look at those who have preformed these acts of terror and destruction, mostly all had mental problems. That is just my opinion, thank you for reading this.

    December 17, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  16. victoriamartinez

    Whywhy did this happen when i heard this i just stared to cry and itwas so sad i did nt sleep at all so can we all stop this by praying for the peoples kids that pas away lets all give our hearts to the family's all of our hearts are broken because of this so each and every one of us should give our hearts to one of them. I go to shapperd middle school and i am 11years old!!!!!!!!!lets all help those people!!!!!!!!!!

    December 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm |
  17. chase

    its bad when we cant protect little kids in school what was the point of him doing that they are incest kids they never did any thing wrong

    December 17, 2012 at 6:43 pm |