Willow Bay: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Connecticut Shooting

ABC News Blogs
Willow Bay: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Connecticut Shooting
.

View photo

Willow Bay: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Connecticut Shooting (ABC News)

The shooting of 20 first graders and their teachers in Newtown, Conn. - all killed while in what was supposed to be a safe learning environment, may leave children worried and with plenty of questions for their parents.

Willow Bay, journalist and author of the book "Talking to Your Kids in Tough Times: How to Answer Your Child's Questions about the World We Live In," said the first thing parents should do is create a "really safe and comfortable" place for children to ask questions about the shooting.

"Establish that there is no question too scary for your child to talk about," Bay said on "Good Morning America" today. "The second thing you want to do is suppress the normal parental instinct to tell them everything."

Bay suggests parents ask their children questions in order to get a baseline on their understanding.

"Remember, they're processing unthinkable information and adult information with the minds of children," she said. "We want to ask them questions, like 'Well what do you think about that? What have you heard about that? Are the kids at school talking about that?'"

Bay said her teenage son has even come to her asking the question on everyone's mind, "Why?"

"I think in that situation, it's fine to answer truthfully, which is 'I don't know. I think everybody is asking that question today,'" Bay said.

Since younger children think very concretely, Bay suggests a different approach, asking grade school kids why they believe the gunman made the horrific choice.

"It will get them processing some of this information in their own way," she said, "and then you can steer the conversation to ways people can make better choices, for example."

For many children who know school as a safe place, there may be fears about going back to class on Monday. Bay suggests parents reassure their children in very concrete and specific ways that they will be safe.

"Remind them that there are adults out there whose job it is to keep them safe. Whether it's policemen, their school principal, their teachers, and walk them through the safety measures in their school," she said.

"Also, ask them for their own ideas, 'What do you think we can do to help keep you safer? What do you think would help you feel safer?' Often times, allowing them to participate will really help them feel better," Bay said. "But then always come back to reminding them that it's the job of adults and there are a lot of us hard at work to keep them safe."

Willow Bay is a senior editor at The Huffington Post and a special correspondent for Bloomberg TV. She is an award-winning journalist who worked at CNN, NBC and ABC News for four years where she co-hosted Weekend Good Morning America. She is the mother of four children and lives in Los Angeles.

View Comments (13)

Recommended for You

  • Jeb Bush's Fall (or Maybe Rise)

    On the eve of today’s New Hampshire presidential primary, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush finished his day at the Frank Jones Center on the seacoast, the same locale where another unlikely GOP contender, John McCain, once hosted his final town hall in a state that he ultimately won eight…

    Good Morning America10 mins ago
  • EXCLUSIVE: ‘Real Housewives’ Star Teresa Giudice Says Prison Was Like ‘Living in Hell’

    The showers were freezing cold ... I mean, the living conditions were really horrible. Speaking from her New Jersey home, the 43-year-old Giudice talked to Robach about her finances, her future and her time in prison –- including working for 12 cents an hour in the kitchen. The reality TV star…

    Good Morning America17 mins ago
  • Oscars Countdown: Stars Gather at Nominees Luncheon

    In “The Danish Girl,” Alicia Vikander’s character brims with tenderness and understanding. In “The Hateful Eight,” Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character Daisy is no fragile flower. Both actresses are Oscar nominees in the supporting actress category. At Monday’s Nominees Luncheon in Beverly Hills, the…

    Good Morning America17 mins ago
  • Marco Rubio Believes He Must Be ‘Doing Something Right’

    Sen. Marco Rubio today brushed off recent attacks by his GOP rivals, saying he must be "doing something right," and expressing confidence despite what he called the "unusual set up" in today’s New Hampshire primary. Despite Christie's attacks, Rubio believes he had "a very strong debate," and…

    Good Morning America41 mins ago
  • Everything You Need to Know About the New Hampshire Primary

    Regardless of who wins, there’s a reason for Granite Staters to celebrate: Tuesday marks the 100th anniversary of the New Hampshire primary. Secretary of State William Gardner is predicting a record surge in Republican ballots cast.

    Good Morning America46 mins ago
  • Dixville Notch Casts First Votes in New Hampshire Primary

    The nine voters of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, became some of the first in the state -- and consequently, first in the nation -- to cast their ballots in the presidential primary in the early hours of Tuesday. New Hampshire has held the "First in the Nation" presidential primary since 1920, and…

    Good Morning America46 mins ago
  • John Kasich’s New Hampshire Primary Day Prediction: ‘We’re Going to Finish Very Strong’

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose campaign has maintained a laser-like focus on performing well in today’s New Hampshire primary, declined to predict exactly how he would place once all the votes are counted here, but sounded a note of confidence in an interview today on "Good Morning America.""We’re…

    Good Morning America53 mins ago
  • Good Morning America59 mins ago
  • Bernie Sanders and the Expectations Game in New Hampshire

    Sen. Bernie Sanders might be the underdog nationwide, but he has been leading in the polls in New Hampshire for months. Another from UMass-Lowell, also out Monday, had Sanders at 56 percent and Clinton at 40 percent. While the numbers would be exciting for any campaign, they have also set the…

    Good Morning America
  • DA in Cornell Sex Assault Case Condemns Underage Drinking Culture on Campuses

    The district attorney prosecuting a Cornell University fraternity president accused of attempted rape and sexual abuse blamed schools in general for "turning a blind eye" to the subject of underage drinking in connection with sexual assault on college campuses. Wolfgang Ballinger, 21, a member of…

    Good Morning America
  • Zika Virus Outbreak Prompts CDC to Activate Highest Emergency Ops Level

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emergency Operations Center has been moved to Level 1, the agency's highest level, due to the risk of Zika virus transmission in the U.S., officials said today. The Level 1 activation is "reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an…

    Good Morning America
  • 'Girls' Star Lena Dunham Taking Time Off for 'Chronic' Illness

    The acclaimed HBO show "Girls" is back for a new season this month, but its biggest star will not being making press appearances due to a "chronic condition."Lena Dunham took to Instagram today to write, "I just wanted to let you know that, while I am so excited for Girls to return on Feb 21, I…

    Good Morning America
  • WWE Wrestler Daniel Bryan to Retire

    Former WWE champion and professional wrestling star Daniel Bryan is retiring."Due to medical reasons, effective immediately, I am announcing my retirement. Tonight on Raw, I'll have a chance to elaborate. #gratitude," he tweeted on Monday.Read: Stone Cold Steve Austin: My Life After Pro…

    Good Morning America
  • Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Rocked by Hurricane-Force Winds Heads Back to New Jersey

    A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that was rocked by hurricane-force winds overnight is sailing back to port in Bayonne, New Jersey. The ship left from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on Saturday for a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas. The company posted a message on Twitter saying that all guests are…

    Good Morning America
  • Panda Cub Bei Bei Climbs a Tree With the Help of His Mom

    Bei Bei is moving up in the world.The Smithsonian National Zoo’s baby panda experienced the outdoors for the first time last week and now the nearly six-month-old cub is scaling trees—-with the help of his mom Mei Xiang, of course. The Washington DC based Zoo posted a video of the feat online this…

    Good Morning America
  • Chinese New Year Fireworks So Dangerous That Only a Few Get to Witness

    For much of the next two weeks, millions of Chinese will welcome in the Year of Monkey, which begins today, with a cavalcade of fireworks lighting up the night’s sky. In almost every corner of every city or village in Mainland China, families will light their own firecrackers and boxes of…

    Good Morning America
  • Countdown to New Hampshire With 5 Things to Watch in Tuesday's Primary

    Tuesday will be a critical moment on the road to the White House as residents of the Granite State cast their votes in the first-in-the-nation primary. With independents making up more than 40 percent of the electorate, the New Hampshire primary can often surprise, and that may be the case…

    Good Morning America