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Q •  What's the best way to talk to our 7- and 9-year-old about all the violence involving the recent shootings? They're back in school and have already heard rumors from their classmates so they're asking questions. We're afraid if we tell them too much they'll get more upset, confused and start having bad dreams. If we tell them too little, they won't be as safe and aware of their surroundings as they should be.

From a reader • Consider the ages of your children and their emotional needs before offering explanations. Don't add any unnecessary details to make them more fearful for their own lives. Talking openly and being honest is what we have done the past couple of years. There are still questions, but we're doing what we think is best for our own family. — S.B. in Chicago

From Jodie • While it's sad that we even have to have these types of conversations with our children, they are certainly needed and crucial for everyone involved.

Long gone are the days of thinking our schools and even places of worship are always going to be safe havens. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can face the truth about today's society.

Even if we feel that we live in a safe neighborhood and our kids attend a safe school, be wise and accept the fact that anything and anyone can change our lives in an instant.

Here are some points to consider:

• Always be honest when discussing violence in the world. Tailor the information you're sharing for age-appropriateness. This can be done by taking a little time to consider what words you're going to use.

• Take their questions seriously. If as adults we scoff at their questions, they'll stop asking or sharing their concerns with us and that would be tragic. They need to be heard and taken seriously even if we think they sound a little silly. This is extremely important in building a solid relationship with them, especially as they get older.

• Don't depend on others to answer your children's questions. It's our responsibility as their parents to be sure that they have the correct information on every topic that they find perplexing.

• Teach them to be aware of their environment at all times and to report odd behavior from classmates or anyone that may be at the school.

• The same goes for something weird in the neighborhood, grocery store, mall, at the movies, etc. They need to point out any strange activity to an adult.


My fiance's niece is 4 and is very resentful of accepting me into the family. She makes faces at me and won't talk to me. It's embarrassing when we have family dinners or events. What can I do to gain her confidence and build a friendship?


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Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.