How are local parents talking to their children about the Conn. - 14 News, WFIE, Evansville, Henderson, Owensboro

How are local parents talking to their children about the Conn. tragedy?

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While young children are at the center of this tragedy, many parents are wondering if or when they should speak to their children about the massacre.

Parents all over the world are holding their children a little tighter this weekend and now trying to cope with the questions their children have about the shooting, especially the most difficult question for anyone to answer, why?

Images of children running from their school are hard for Lisa Pierce to explain to her own six-year-old daughter. 

"She's really quick to catch on and she was wanting to know if those were kids at school being shot, so I just tell them the least amount I can without not telling them the truth," Owensboro parent, Lisa Pierce said. 

The truth, 20 children and 6 adults, were gunned down by suspected shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza. 

Doctor Elizabeth Kalb, a psychologist with the IU School of Medicine explains how to answer the "Why did this happen" question with an honest answer without divulging graphic details. 

Dr. Kalb said, "It's important to be honest, and I think a sad, but honest answer is, we don't know, we don't know, there was a bad person. A person that had a lot of problems, who did something very horrible and we're trying to as an adult world, address this."

Dr. Kalb says first, you have to listen to what your child is saying. Let the child talk about what his or her fears, concerns and issues are.  

 "And really at this point, what we want to provide the children with is both reassurance and security. You know, 'mommy and daddy are here, we're going to protect you, we're going to help you with this time,' as well as you want to give them structure, probably the most important thing right now is some degree of continuity," Dr. Kalb said.

She explains to tell children it's safe to return to their school because there are adults there to protect them. 

If you're children aren't asking you about the school shooting, Dr. Kalb says you don't necessarily have to bring it up to them.

Tina Dickerson isn't going to talk to her children, ages four and five, about what happened.

"When the time comes, we'll cross that bridge when we have to," Dickerson said.

Right now, Dickerson is thinking about the safety of sending her child back to prekindergarten on Monday. 

"How can us parents here in these schools that have our own babies in there can make sure that our children, make us feel a little safer," Dickerson said.

Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation boasts being one of the safest school districts. With a grant, they were able to enhance their emergency strategy.

In a statement, the EVSC said, "Over a long series of full and half-day sessions, school personnel learned about building safety and prevention techniques, as well as strategies to use if an incident does occur in a school."

Dr. Kalb says unless your child is suffering extreme anxiety, he or she should return to school to maintain the structure they're used to. 

Henderson County High School teacher Kelly Burns has a four and a half-year-old. He says he spoke with students on Friday while they were in class, but shifted gears with his own child.

"Four and a half-years old, all we did last night was instead of our normal night of cartoons, cookies and milk, it was more of a we're going to sit in the recliner and dad's going to hug on you really tight for about an hour an half," Burns said.

Officials say it's important to not completely immerse yourself in this story. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the stories and events unfolding, it's likely your children will be as well. 

For more information on talking to your children about this tragedy, visit the American Psychological Association's website.

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