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How To Talk To Your Children About The Mass Shooting In Las Vegas

It's a tough conversation to have, but your kids need you to guide them through this.

As a parent, you want to protect your children, first and foremost. So it may feel intuitive to to shield them from disturbing news rather than talking about violence. But as the nation grapples with the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas—which killed at least 59 people and injured 527—experts say it’s important to have candid conversations with your children about the news.

If your children don’t hear honest messages from you, it’s likely they’ll learn about the news elsewhere, whether that’s at school, via social media or on TV. In fact, the Mayo Clinic says that talking to your children can help them understand what’s happened, feel safe and begin to cope.

Here’s advice from experts on how to discuss the tragedy in Las Vegas with your children.

1. Set the tone for the conversation

Your children will look to your reaction to the news to help determine their own reactions, according to Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children thrive in a world of media and technology. If you stay calm and rational, it will help your children to do the same.

2. Assure your children they are safe

For children who are old enough to understand what happened, parents should assure their children that they are not in immediate danger. “Help them understand that there was a shooting in Las Vegas and many families were out listening to music when somebody, for unknown reasons, started shooting people,” Robin Gurwitch, psychologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, told ABC News . “And tell them that because the police responded so quickly [the suspected gunman] is no longer a threat.”

3. Be honest with your children

It’s best to tell the truth, but avoid sharing unnecessary details surrounding tragedies, according to the Mayo Clinic. Don’t exaggerate details and avoid speculating on what might happen. Also, the Mayo Clinic advises that you address any misinformation your child may have, and address his or her underlying fears.

4. Have an age-appropriate conversation

How you frame the conversation about tragedies varies depending on your child’s age. Lee Beers, a pediatrician at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., told ABC News that if you’re child is preschool age, be sure he or she knows you are there to answer questions. At the same time, at this age, parents have a high level of control over what children see and hear, so it doesn’t need to be brought up unless a child hears about it first.

If your child is in elementary school, you should share basic details about the tragedy with children and allow them to ask questions, according to Beers. If your children are middle or high school-age, it warrants having a more detailed conversation and asking questions such as “What do you think about this?” to uncover what might be bothering them.

5. Turn off the 24/7 news feeds

A final tip, courtesy of Common Sense Media: Turn off the 24/7 news feed and news notifications in your household as hearing about tragedies on repeat can cause children to feel stressed.