Coping with the Newtown tragedy

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Most parents reacting to Friday's horrific news of the mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school will hug their children tighter tonight. But a psychologist says it's important to act normally so children don't get scared.

Carol Jeurgensen-Sheets is a family therapist who spoke to Eyewitness News at 5:00 pm.

"Kids are so intuitive. They can definitely sense fear. So when parents grab the kids and do unusual things, it will make them wonder what's going on," she said. "All the kids have already heard about this. This went viral as soon as it happened."

Parents should let their children ask questions, and be prepared to discuss the children's emotions.

"They should ask if they're mad, sad, glad, afraid or lonely. Those five primary feelings will help them to decide how they are feeling," she said.

Jeurgensen-Sheets says it's an important time to remind children that they're strong and can handle what they're feeling. It's also good to talk to them about confidence "that the world is really a good place and not a bad place."

Some parents have reacted to the tragedy by saying they plan to home school their children instead of allowing them to attend public school.

"I believe that's normal to want to isolate and protect their kids. But that's the worst thing they can do because really, this is an unusual situation that is not bound to happen again," she said. "They have to make their child feel things are as normal as possible."

Jeurgensen-Sheets says parents should give information to children based on their age. While it's okay to discuss why bad people might do bad things, she said, remind them about the good things and ask them if they want to help. has compiled these links to help you talk to your children about the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting, along with resources to help your family cope.

If you come across other useful links, please share them in the comments thread.

Character counts: Age-appropriate advice on gun safety for kids

American Psychological Association – Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting

American Academy of Pediatrics – Resources to Help Parents, Children and Others Cope in the Aftermath of School Shootings

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry – Children and Grief

Massachusetts General Hospital for Children – Talking To Children About A Shooting

Child Mind Institute – Caring For Kids After A School Shooting

How to talk with your kids about news events - PBS