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Chaplain: Talk with your children about Conn. tragedy

Put their imaginations to rest, he says
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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Explaining what happened, and why, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut could be hard for anyone, let alone a parent trying to tell their child.

How could someone kill 27 people, including their own mother and 20 children, before taking their own life?

Chaplain Terry Morgan, of Gold Country Chaplaincy, said it’s best not to wait for the questions to be asked. Instead, parents should address the tragedy up front with their children.

“You can’t turn on the television or the radio without hearing about it, and I’m sure the kids are going to hear about it from other kids,” Morgan said. “My opinion would be they need to get in front of it.”

“Don’t go into the gory details, but give them what happened and enough to satisfy their curiosity. Kids tend to be very imaginative, and if we don’t tell them what happened, they’ll likely think of something far worse than what actually happened.”

Age should be considered when deciding just how much to talk about it, he said.

The message can be as simple as: “Something happened on the East Coast where a person caused some violence and hurt a lot of kids at a school … and then I would tell them that they’re safe and that we’re going to take care of them.”

Other things Morgan said to consider include:

 “Children tend to be very tuned in to the reactions and emotions of their parents and other adults in their lives. Our response to this shooting will have an influence on them.

 “A child’s attention span tends to be shorter the younger they are. When their normal routine is not interrupted, they will recover from bad news much more quickly.

 “Provide reassurance and extra emotional support if they need it. Grieving children will grieve in spurts.

 “Avoid too much television time.

 “Be sure to let children know that law enforcement is doing everything they can to keep them safe.

  “Children tend to be much more resilient than we give them credit for and will ‘spring back’ much more quickly than we expect. If they don’t, talk to their doctor and seek help for them.”