Quora Question: Explaining Guns and Violence to Kids

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First-grader Henry Terifay and his sister, fourth-grader Kelly Terifay, outside Sandy Hook Elementary School after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. Michelle McLoughlin/reuters

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Answer from Michelle Sandberg, pediatrician, founding board member Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America:

When discussing gun violence or other potentially frightening topics with children, it's important to present information in an age-appropriate way that a child can understand. Start by asking a child what they have already heard or know and what questions they have.

Especially for young children it is best to avoid graphic images and details. Young children may be frightened by violent images on television and social media — try to keep them protected from those visuals as much as possible.

For older children and adolescents who want to watch the news, it is best to watch with them. This allows you to stop and pause for discussion and questions as needed. Given the exposure older kids and teenagers have to news and graphic images through social media, it is helpful to be aware of what is out there and talk to them in advance about frightening topics like mass shootings. The reality is that children will hear about major events, and it's much better for them to hear about it from a parent or trusted adult than from another child.

Regardless of age, it is best to be as straightforward, honest and direct as possible (without going into unnecessary graphic detail). Tell your child that it is OK for them to be upset about violent incidents. Reassure them that you are there for them and will do your best to explain, discuss, answer questions and help them process difficult information.

What are some ways parents can help educate their children on gun control and violence? originally appeared on Quora—the knowledge-sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

Quora Question: Explaining Guns and Violence to Kids | U.S.
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