Prof: How to help children cope with shooting, prepare them for school Monday

December 14, 2012  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - While parents and caregivers are struggling to understand Friday's (Dec. 14) tragic school shooting in Connecticut, they need to be ready to help children with their questions and fears, says a Purdue University child development expert.

"Don't assume that the children know nothing, especially the young ones, because it is likely they will hear bits and pieces and misunderstand," says Judith Myers-Walls, professor emeritus of child development. "This shooting may be states away, but it happened in a classroom and that is personal to any child."

Myers-Walls said parents don't need to go into the details, but ask children if there is anything they want to talk about.

"It's OK to tell your children that you are sad, angry or scared, but explain to them how you cope with those feelings so the children can learn how, too," she says.

Some ideas to help children feel as if they are doing something is to light a candle, send a card to a family or give to a local charity.

"Children have a sense that something should be done, and taking some kind of action can help decrease their fear," Myers-Wall says.

Parents can help children who are fearful or anxious of going to school on Monday by reminding them about the safety aspects of their school, such as the people who watch out for them like teachers and bus drivers.

"Parents can send something comforting to school with their children such as a note or family picture," Myers-Walls says. "Having a confident and caring parent or caregiver is the most helpful thing you can do to help children not feel afraid."

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723,

Source: Judith Myers-Walls, For media interviews on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, reporters can contact Myers-Walls by email.

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