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How to talk to your kids about the events in Ottawa

Police secure an area around Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday Oct.22, 2014.
Police secure an area around Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday Oct.22, 2014. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

TORONTO — The extensive media coverage of Wednesday’s events in Ottawa and the flood of details and images on social media may cause some children to have feelings of fear or anxiety.

According to the U.S.-based National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), children take emotional cues from the adults in their lives so it’s important to appear calm and in control.

The organization advises adults to reassure children they — and the people they care about — are safe.

NASP also recommends adults tell children it is okay to feel upset.

“Tell children the truth,” the organization advises in a guide posted online. “Don’t embellish or speculate about what has happened.

“Be careful not to stereotype people or countries that might be associated with the tragedy. Children can easily generalize negative statements and develop prejudice. Talk about tolerance and justice versus vengeance.”

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The advice for parents includes what, perhaps, is a no-brainer.

“Give plenty of hugs,” it says. “Let them sit close to you, and make sure to take extra time at bedtime to cuddle and reassure them that they are loved and safe.”

According to the guide Helping Children Cope authored by the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), children watching coverage of the events on television or online should be supervised.

“They are not old enough to understand the events,” it reads. “Be there to explain any fearful situations they may encounter.”

The CPA advises parents to maintain family routines and make an extra effort to spend time together.

Also, “create an environment in which children feel safe enough to ask questions.”

Following the 2013 bombings at the Boston Marathon, Toronto-based registered psychologist Dr. Oren Amitay told Global News children should only be given as much information as they need to know. He advises parents to avoid conveying the feeling that “the entire world is a scary, unpredictable, dangerous place and they can be a victim at any point.”

– with a file by Carmen Chai, Global News