WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Talking to your kids about tragic events like the shooting in Connecticut is never easy.
Carrie Wachter Morris is a Purdue education professor in the School Counseling program who specializes in counseling and crisis intervention in schools. She's also the president of the Indiana School Counselor Association.
For parents and guardians, this can also be a difficult time knowing how to talk to your children.
Wachter Morris has some age-appropriate tips to help.
She said the youngest kids don't need to be exposed to it at all.
Those in early elementary school will probably hear about it through peers. While they may ask some questions, they are really wanting to be reassured that they are safe, that the same thing won't happen to them and that adults care about them.
Older elementary and middle school students should be given opportunities to ask questions. She added it's important for parents in this age range to model appropriate emotions, everything from anger and sadness to confusion and numbness.
Adolescents can handle more information and graphic images. But it's important to talk to them about the incident and what they are hearing in school. It can also be used as a learning tool to discuss mental health and talk about warning signs if they have a friend or know someone who may be in trouble or needs help.
"As parents, knowing your child and knowing what they can handle," Wacher Morris said. "Also knowing, as adults, maybe you're glued to wanting to know every single detail but kids may not need that, especially on the younger end."
If you have no idea where to start, Wachter Morris advises parents to just ask simple questions like, "Have you heard about this?" or "What have you heard?" and "What do you think?"
She said there are plenty of resources at your child's school as well as online through groups like the American School Counselor Association or the American Counseling Association.
She said parents should monitor their kids at any age to see if there is a change in behavior, perhaps in eating or sleeping habits. If there is, it's a good idea to ask them if they are troubled by something and let them express what they are feeling.
She also adds that younger children may be extra clingy or grumpy because they don't know how to express in words what they are feeling and may need to talk about how they are feeling to help them process their emotions.
Click on the video to watch an extended interview with her about how to talk with kids of different ages after Friday's events.
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