When speaking to your children, it is important to consider their age and to speak to them using age appropriate language. As you begin the conversation, ask your children what they have heard. They may have overheard other children or adults talking at school. It may also be helpful to contact your children’s school to find out if or how the school will be addressing the situation. It is not necessary to provide all the details of what happened. You may consider talking to your children within the context of what they know and what they are able to understand. Explore with them the thoughts and feelings they are having. Allowing your children to express their concerns or fears will guide you in helping them cope with any distressing thoughts or feelings they are experiencing. It may also be beneficial for you to share some of your thoughts and feelings with your children, allowing them to know they are not alone in feeling as they do.
Sometimes children ask very specific and challenging questions. For example, they could ask, ‘why do things like this happen or can something like this happen here?’ There is no perfect answer to either of these questions. It is okay to say that you do not know why it happened or that sometimes things happen in the world that are difficult for us to understand. In regards to the second question, it is important to validate their fear. However, you may also highlight that it is unlikely for these events to occur. Reassure your children of their overall safety but be cautious in making absolute statements about something similar never happening to them. You can emphasize all the safety precautions you and others take to keep them safe. Again, it is important to consider the age of your children when addressing these questions.