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8 tips for talking to children about tragedy

In the aftermath of the December 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., compiled this list of tips for parents and guardians to address questions from their children. With more children dying in today's tornado in Oklahoma, we are republishing this list as a resource for parents:

1. Be available: Let children know you are available to answer their questions, according to Children's National Medical Center. But it's okay to not have all the answers, or to tell your children you need to find out the answer to a question.

2. Be creative: If children are having trouble talking about school violence, consider having them use art or music to express their feelings, the medical center says.

3. Reassure children that they are safe: The Connecticut Education Association says guardians should stress that schools are generally very safe places, but that all feelings are OK after a tragedy.

4. Keep your explanations age-appropriate: The association suggests giving brief, simple information to early elementary school children, helping upper elementary children separate reality from fantasy and talking with middle and high school students about concrete ways to improve school safety.

5. Review safety procedures: Go over safety protocols for school and the home, the CEA advises, and have children identify adults they can go to if they feel at risk.

6. Ask questions yourself: Parenting magazine suggests that guardians find out what their children are really asking or worried about before rushing into an explanation.

7. Limit exposure to the news: The American Psychological Association advises parents to monitor how much time children spend reading or watching news reports. Young children may believe an event is occurring again each time they see a replay.

8. Watch out for warning signs: The APA says parents should look out for changes in a child's school performance and relationships with friends and teachers, or for behaviors like refusing to go to school, frequent nightmares or an unusually high number of headaches or stomachaches. Those could be signs that a child is having trouble processing news about school violence.