In the middle of a tragedy, we are all drawn to listen and watch the news. But USC pediatrician Harvey Karp said parents of young children should be careful what images they see.
"I encourage parents to turn the TV off. Because those images are so powerful and they can be very very disturbing and really seared into your child's memory," Said Karp, who has worked with children of military personnel and veterans dealing with trauma.
That doesn't mean you should avoid the conversation. Karp said a good strategy is to focus on what will make kids feel secure: tell them about all the things that you and their teachers are doing to keep them protected.
"Visitors are not allowed at the school, or there's a gate around the school, or there's a policy at the school to help keep people like this out," he said. "Simple messages to help allay their concerns."
Here are some suggestions from Karp and other experts on how to talk to your kids about the shooting:
1. Stay calm -- children will pick up on a parent's anxiety and that will only increase his or her worry.
2. Turn off the TV -- images from the tragedy can be seared into a child's memory.
3. Reassure child about everything you are doing to keep them safe: There are gates around their school, no one can come into the school unless authorized, teachers are there to protect children, etc.
4. Remind child about the many good things in your local community to provide some balance to their perspective. Young children may not understand how random something like this is, you can reassure them of all the people doing good things in your local community who care about them and the world.
5. Allow your child to express his or her fears and fantasies verbally or though play.
6. Consult a qualified mental health professional if your child seems extremely traumatized. Ask your child's school for an appropriate referral.
-- Sources: Dr Harvey Karp, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at USC School of Medicine & LAUSD Guide for Parents: Understanding Child Traumatic Stress.