in the aftermath of Sandy Hook

 When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."
To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
 - Fred (Mr.) Rogers
Many parents are deeply concerned about how to communicate with their children about what happened. Here's my two cents:
Turn off the TV and the radio.  Protect your child from the relentless intrusion of fear and grief into their world. It's simply not necessary, and the constant replaying of events can be even more harmful to their psyches than what actually happened. Don't talk about it within their earshot (including on the phone). Keep their lives and routines as normal and typical as possible.
Calm yourself first. Vent your fear, terror, insecurity, rage, grief, and other strong emotions with your partner, friends, relatives, therapist, neighbors, coworkers, etc. before talking with your child, so they don't bleed through your words and scare him, or negatively impact your ability to be attentive to his reactions and emotions. 
Keep your explanation brief and neutral: This person had something wrong with him that made him not able to think clearly or control his actions. He is dead now and cannot do any more harm. The friends and families who lost loved ones are very sad right now, and that is a normal feeling for people to have after someone they love dies. They are getting lots of love and help from many people who care about them, and they will be okay. Every time something like this happens we learn about better ways to keep people safe, and we will learn from this, too.  
You don't have to have all the answers.   Kids will sometimes ask questions that we don't know how to answer, such as, "Why?" It's okay to say, "I don't know that for sure, honey. But here's what I do know. Most adults are doing everything they can to protect kids from harm. There are LOTS more people in the world who want to help kids than who want to hurt them."
Listening is more important than explaining. Let your child have his feelings about this - don't try to talk him out of them, just love him while he experiences them. His emotional system knows how to clear things like this. Be there to keep him company while he processes it. You don't need to be overly verbal or intellectual - just holding him on your lap or in your arms is extremely helpful and comforting.  One of the blessed strengths of childhood is the inability to leave the present moment for long, so when he's ready to get back to playing, let him. There's no need to pry or force him to talk about it.
Here's a resource I really like with more information:
ps: this just in from Dr. Laura Markham -- a very comprehensive article that included age-specific tips.  I highly recommend! 

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