There's no one way to address tragedies with children, and how parents approach it depends both on the child's age and temperament.
The American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding the topic with children until they reach a certain age - around 8, but again, it depends on the child. Before this age, children struggle to process it.
But parents should talk to their younger children about mass shootings if they are at risk of hearing it from others.
Preschool to kindergarten: Keep it short
With young children, it's recommended parents keep their stories simple. These stories should reinforce parents' beliefs. Perhaps, parents want their children to know that a bad man hurt people. Maybe parents want their children to know that someone with a serious illness felt angry and hurt people. This might be a chance to change the conversation, too. Try to focus on the positives, such as the heroes of the story.
Elementary-school children: Protect them
Children in this age group will ask many more interrogative questions and parents need to decide how much they want to share. Parents should prevent their children from seeing pictures or the news because the images will stick with children longer than words. If children do see pictures, she recommends that parents show their children positive photos to counteract the negative.
Tweens: Listen and learn
Start the conversation by asking tweens if they heard about the latest shooting. If they have heard of it, listen to their feelings. If they haven't heard of it, parents have an opportunity to share their beliefs while gaining better insight into their tweens.
Teenagers: They need solutions
Parents should ask their teens if they have heard of the latest tragedy and allow them to share their feelings. But teenagers will expect more. Teaching teenagers to work toward change will help them be resilient. Parents still need to listen to their teens' feelings and display empathy.