"It's understandable that people want to gather and offer their support, but parents need to think carefully what the experience will be like for their children," she says. "It's likely that some community members will be very upset and will be talking very vehemently or loudly. It's extremely understandable, but it's frightening for young children.
"There are other ways to have social activities that the child can be involved with that the parents can manage and contain in ways they can't at a public event," Hahn says.
O'Callaghan says parents should approach public vigils in the same way they would approach an open-casket funeral: Some kids can handle it and some can't. "Check with the child. Ask 'what do you think?' They have minds of their own," he says.
Parents who need help dealing with the trauma or want to help their children cope, can visit http://www.211ct.org/Parents/Trauma.asp. The 211 website, affiliated with the United Way and the state government, was updated this week with referrals to resources specifically targeted toward the Newtown tragedy.
Tips For Coping
The National Association of School Psychologists released a statement offering tips to help parents help their kids cope with the tragedy. Among the suggestions:
Keep explanations developmentally appropriate;
Emphasize that schools are safe places, and explain why, along with reviewing safety procedures;
Remind them that everyone plays a role in school safety;
Tell them that reporting information that appears dangerous is not tattling;
Tell them not to dwell on the worst possibilties;
Counsel them that sometimes bad people do things that hurt others, but that senseless violence is hard for everyone to understand;
Warn them to stay away from guns;
Instruct them that violence is never a solution to personal problems.