By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) — WBZ-TV’s Dr. Mallika Marshall has advice on how to talk to children about a horrific event like the school shooting in Florida:

  • As a parent, don’t put your head in the sand. In all likelihood, your school-aged child or teen has heard something about the Florida tragedy, from their classmates or from social media or from television.
  • Be open and available to talk to them and answer their questions. Start by asking, “Did you hear about what happened in Florida yesterday? What do you know about it?”
  • If your child says he’s scared to go back to school, don’t just brush it off and say, “You have nothing to be afraid.”
  • Ask him why he’s scared because it may be something you wouldn’t have guessed.
  • Remind your child that it’s unlikely that he will ever have something bad like that happen at his school, and reassure him that their school is doing everything it can to keep them safe. Tell them that school drills are designed to do just that.
  • Always keep conversations age-appropriate. A child psychologist likened it to a conversation you might have about “the birds and the bees.” The older the child, the more detailed information you might provide.
  • With young children, use simple words. Say something like, “There are bad people who do bad things, but you’re safe.”
  • For older kids, you can give more details as appropriate.
  • One conversation may not be enough. Check back in periodically to see how your child is processing the information, and look for warning signs that they’re not coping well, like difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, loss of focus or crankiness.
  • If you think your child is suffering from excessive worry, contact the school to see if there is a school psychologist or counselor she can talk to or call your pediatrician.

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