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Helping Children Cope with Tragedy

(CNN) — When children are dealing with the emotional aftermath of a tragedy such as the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the most important thing parents can do is to help them feel safe.

If your children are young, turn off the TV. When they see the tragic images, they think the disaster is happening again and again. If they are older, you may want to limit time watching the news.

Talking to your children about their worries and concerns can help them get back on track emotionally. Take advantage of the times you are together like when riding in the car, at dinner or at bedtime. Let them talk without interruption before responding.

Reassure your children that this event may be terrible, but that it’s rare and that adults at school work hard to keep them safe.

Watch for changes in your child’s behavior that may indicate that they are anxious. Preschoolers may revert to bedwetting or increase their clinginess, elementary age children may have nightmares or trouble sleeping, and teenagers may act out their anger or sadness and also have problems with sleep.

As a family, try to resume normal routines and activities as soon as possible. Let your children know they are loved and that you’re thankful to be with them.

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