Focus at Four: Talking to your kids about school shootings

It's the topic on your TV, on your homepage, and maybe around your dinner table.

The recent shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla. has families across the United States addressing school shootings with their child.

"The number one thing to do, whatever you say and whatever age you're talking to, is to reassure your child of their safety," said Krystal Simmons, an associate professor in the education psychology at Texas A&M University and practicing school psychologists.

"Besides that, really let them lead the conversation," Simmons said.

Simmons and the National Association of School Psychologists suggest taking a different approach depending on the age of the child.

The official recommendations are below:

"Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. Give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.

"Upper elementary and early middle school children will be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done at their school. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools.

"Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines (e.g. not providing building access to strangers, reporting strangers on campus, reporting threats to the school safety made by students or community members, etc.), communicating any personal safety concerns to school administrators, and accessing support for emotional needs."

Simmons also says that keeping an eye on your child's emotional state can be important, and that you should always seek a professional if you feel it's a serious problem.

Also, Simmons says, it's fine to make the kids turn off the TV.

"Give your child permission to stop watching the coverage," Simmons. "They may actually be grateful in the end."

For more from Simmons, see the video player above. For NASP's full recommendations, see the Related Links.