California State PTA and Highlands Council offer our condolences and deepest sympathy to the families and school community for the tragic loss today in Newtown, Connecticut. Our hearts go out to all for this terrible loss. At this time of tragedy, children throughout our country may be struggling with their thoughts and feelings about the stories and images and they may turn to adults for help and guidance. PTA has many resources available to assist students, families, schools and PTAs in coping with school violence. Additional resources regarding media exposure and traumatic events may be found online.

National PTA Resources

Media Exposure and Traumatic Events

From Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News:

Your child doesn’t need to have been at the scene of today’s Connecticut school shooting to be traumatized.  Hearing about it and seeing images from it can be quite traumatic.

It’s important to remember that children of different ages and levels of development will react differently to the tragedy. Here are some tips to help tailor your conversation to your child’s needs.

Children younger than 7

Shield them from this. They don’t need to know about it.

Children 7-12

They need to know that they are safe, and they’ll look to you for cues.

If you’re sobbing uncontrollably, overly angry or unable to express your feelings, it might affect how they process the tragedy. But if you’re expressing appropriate emotion — like sadness, concern and empathy — they’re going to see that it’s OK to be worried about this.

You want them to talk about it.  You want to ask, “How do you feel about this?” And then it’s important to support their feelings.  If your child says, “I’m really scared,” the worst thing you can do is say, “There’s no need to be scared.” Instead, tell them, “We’re going to keep you safe, and they got the bad guy.”

Children Older Than 12

With teenagers, you really want to engage them. Ask them why they think this happened?  And do they think anything could have prevented this?  You can have a real conversation out of that. You might also be able to channel them to a community project, some act of charity so that they believe they are taking positive action.