How to explain mass shootings to kids

NEW YORK -- Parents all over America are struggling with what to tell their children about the steady stream of violence many feel powerless to stop.

One such parent is Sharon Marcus, a mother who is worried about how to talk to her 6-and-7-year-old daughters about yet another mass shooting.

"I always want to be that person that says the right thing. My girls look up to me, and they value what I say, and so imagine, I'm put in this position of having to always know the right thing to say, and it's so much pressure. But I just try to do my best," said Marcus.

In the last month alone, more than a hundred have been killed in places most consider safe -- at a concert, a café, and an office holiday party.

In November, we watched a father in Paris try to calm his young son's fears about bad guys with guns by telling him about the goodness of flowers.

But many parents are struggling to explain this emerging new reality to their children.

"I think it's perfectly normal to want to shield our kids from grief and from pain. While counterintuitive, I think it's very important that parents take the lead in breaking the news when something bad happens to their kids," said child psychiatrist Harold Koplewicz.

Parents need to remember that their children will hear more than what their parents tell them. Koplewicz advises that parents should explain to their kids that they are save and love and that violent events are rare. Safety plans should be calmly reviewed.

Parents Sharon and David Marcus take the approach of emphasizing the good to their daughters. "I can't stop living, and I can't stop enjoying my life, and I have to give them a childhood where they can go to the park and not be worried about anything. You know, we stay smart, but we have to go on and live," said Sharon.

"Do you feel better now?" David asked.

"Yes," their daughters replied.

  • Elaine Quijano
    Elaine Quijano

    Elaine Quijano was named a CBS News correspondent in January 2010. Quijano reports for "CBS This Morning" and the "CBS Evening News," and contributes across all CBS News platforms. She is based in New York.