NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s a question many parents are grappling with these days, as reports of slayings and massacres like the terror attacks on Paris and Wednesday’s events in San Bernardino make headlines:

How do we talk to our children about these events?

“We can’t shield or children from what’s happening in the world,” Dr. Jeffery Gardere, a clinical psychologist, said.

As images of these events are plastered on the covers of our newspapers, on our televisions and computer screens, many children already have some idea of what is going on.

“I know that ISIS is a terrorist organization,” Malek Elashry, 12, told CBS2’s Scott Rapoport. “The most dangerous of today. It stands for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and that — honestly, they’re a bunch of monsters.”

According to psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Gardere, talking about tragedies, like San Bernardino, is essential. Gardere recommends that parents first ask their children what they know about the event, and how they feel about it.

“Don’t let them deal with it alone,” Gardere said. “Let them know that you love them and you will try to keep them as safe as possible.”

Gardere also recommends that parents keep an even tone, and to not express fear or anger on the topic — expressions that could negatively impact the child’s reaction to the situation.

Having an open dialogue about tragic events also gives families an opportunity to plan ahead and be proactive to prepare for future potential emergencies.


“Taking proactive action such as knowing safe havens … or if something happens,” Gardere said. What is the backup plan as far as being able to contact another adult or a parent by telephone.”

Experts also say its okay for parents to show some emotion because it allows children the opportunity to express themselves.



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