12 Things Every Man Should Know About Sperm

By
November 24th, 2015

It’s kind of hard to believe your body creates swimming, gene-toting cells designed to survive in someone else’s body. Not just that, but these are produced in the millions, all day, every day, for your entire life. Whether or not you’re hoping your sperm will make you a dad someday soon, you should brush up on information about these special creations and what yours may say about you. For just that purpose, we’ve enlisted the expertise of Michael Eisenberg, Director of Male Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Stanford University Medical Center.

10% of Your Genes Are Devoted to Sperm Production

We’re custom-built to reproduce: “There are about 24,000 genes in the body, but in men about 10 percent of those are devoted to sperm production,“ says Eisenberg. This wealth of genes may be part of the reason why sperm vary so much within and between men. With that many genes involved, there is a lot we have yet to learn about the factors that make sperm function the way they do.

A Sperm’s Life Lasts Little More Than Three Months

It takes about two to three months for sperm to fully mature. Sperm begins in the seminiferous tubules in the testes. Once they develop a head and tail, they move into the epididymis, a coiled, 20-foot-long tube located behind the testis. It takes sperm about three weeks to pass through the epididymis, and it is fully mature once it reaches the end. Within a woman’s body, sperm can live for up to seven days. This is important because an egg is available for fertilization for only about 12 to 24 hours after being released from an ovary, and the sperm can take anywhere from half an hour to several days to reach it. This also means that a woman can become pregnant even if she releases an egg days after having unprotected sex.

The Vagina Is a Harsh Environment for Sperm

The average man ejaculates about 3 ml, or half a teaspoon, of semen. This fluid supports the sperm during its journey. “You need a certain amount of ejaculate volume to be able to buffer the harsher environment of the vagina,” says Eisenberg. Some women’s bodies even attack sperm as invaders, causing them to stick together (which inhibits motion), blocking them from the egg, or killing them. This reaction occurs as a result of sperm coming into contact with the woman’s bloodstream, which can happen through injury or infection. If sperm and blood come into contact in a man’s body, he can develop an anti-sperm response as well, but this is very rare.

Nearly Half of All Sperm Never Move at All

When you think of sperm, you think of little swimmers, whipping their long tails back and forth on their race to the egg. Some sperm move this way but many don’t. In fact, rather than judging them for skill or form, fertility standards often look at whether the sperm is moving forward and whether it’s moving at all. On average, only about 50 to 60 percent of sperm show any movement.

Most Sperms are Mutants

A common test used to measure the appearance of sperm, called the Kruger Strict Morphology, says that if 14 percent or more of your sperm looks normal, you have a good chance of fertilizing an egg. If it’s above 4 percent, the outlook is below average but still decent. “When I talk to men and they have 2 percent [normal] morphology, I always let them know that we’re not shooting for the moon with this, it’s a lower orbit where normal is 3 or 4 percent,” says Eisenberg.

Sperm Count Can Say a Lot About Your Health

Beyond fertility, the health of a man’s sperm can be telling of his general health and well-being. “If the overall being is not healthy, I think it can be reflected in its reproductive potential,” says Eisenberg. Reproduction isn’t necessary for survival, so if the body isn’t doing well, it may divert resources away from reproductive organs to other places where they’re more urgently needed. This could result in lower quality sperm. High body mass, poor sleep quality, high stress, cigarette smoking, and heart disease are all associated with lower sperm quality.

What Happens with Age

Men make sperm throughout their entire lives, but sperm quality likely declines with age. As men get older, there tends to be a drop in the volume of ejaculate (but not concentration), percent of motile (moving) sperm, and amount of normal-looking sperm. There have also been some studies that suggest that children whose fathers had them at an older age are more likely to have certain genetic disorders, including autism, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

What Sperm Should Look Like

The basic parts of the sperm are the head (which holds the DNA), the midpiece (which contains mitochondria that fuel the sperm), and the tail. All of these parts have expected shapes and sizes. In most cases, however, sperm look far from ideal. “There’s a lot of biologic waste in the system,” says Eisenberg. “So, a lot of sperm that we make in general don’t look totally normal, but that’s not necessarily a problem.” Many of your sperm may have lumpy heads, two heads, two tails, or various other issues. Although it may be unsettling, these many deviations are the be-all and end-all determinant of sperm quality.

Sperm Count and Testicular Cancer

Poor sperm counts can be an indicator of testicular cancer later on. Given this all happens in the same area, the association makes sense. However, you shouldn’t feel your fate is sealed just because your sperm quality is low. “It’s important to know that testes cancer is very, very rare,” says Eisenberg. “Less than 1 percent of all men get it.” Also important to know: men who have only one testicle can still be fertile.

Are You Average?

The number of sperm in a man’s ejaculate is a common measure of fertility. This concentration is important, but it can fall within a wide range without being a problem. “The average in this country, interestingly, varies by different regions of the country,” says Eisenberg. “It probably also varies by race or ethnicity.” Average in the United States is around 60 to 100 million sperm per milliliter. Less than 15 million per milliliter or 39 million per ejaculation is considered low.

How to Boost Your Sperm Count

Nothing you read online can take the place of one-on-one help with a medical professional, but there are a few changes we know can help sperm production. “In general, anything that’s good for the heart is good for fertility, but there may need to be some caveat to that,” says Eisenberg. First, eat healthy and don’t smoke. Exercise is usually a great idea as well, except in special cases, such as long-distance cycling. Sperm like to be about four degrees colder than the rest of your body, which is why your testicles hang away from you. When you cram them into tight, hot shorts for a long time, it can affect your fertility. Avoid saunas and hot tubs too if you’re worried about conceiving.

Semen’s Role

You probably already know this one, but sperm and semen are two different things. Sperm are the individual cells that carry DNA intended to fertilize an egg. They are ejaculated with semen, which is everything else that comes out during ejaculation. Sperm’s importance is obvious, but semen plays a vital role as well. “It’s fluid that contains proteins and sugars that allow the sperm to survive in the vagina and give it the energy to get where it needs to go — which is ultimately to the egg,” says Eisenberg.

By Taylor Kubota

Watch Porn With Your Partner

By
November 24th, 2015

So you want to bring porn into your relationship. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, says Ava Cadell, the author of NeuroLoveology — as long as you don’t have too many expectations.  “Think of it as an adventure for the two of you — something that’s going to enrich your relationship,“ she says. Still, porn isn’t for every couple and if you go in too hot, it can add stress to your sex life.

Don’t make it a surprise. 
Some porn to spice up your love life could be a fun surprise, right? Nope. “Talk about it before you turn it on,” says Cadell. People can have big differences of opinion about porn. Some don’t want to see it no matter what; for others, certain types of porn will be a big turn-off.

Find a reason.

Are you in it for the sexy voyeurism or to learn new moves? As background to help get in the mood, or a shared experience in itself? Talk about what you want to get out of it so that you two are on the same page and have the same expectations.

And then get a quality film.
Don’t get lazy and just use the only movie you already own. Put some thought into it; that should be part of the fun. Cadell recommends going online and considering the winners of the AVN porn awards. Other good choices for couples are educational porn made for the couples audience, like ones that Cadell has produced.

When it doubt, pick a parody.

It can be nerve-racking for even porn connoisseurs to bring the person they care about in on the action with you, so watching porn that makes you laugh can take some of the pressure off. “I kind of like the parodies myself,” says Cadell. “They’re big productions and they can be really entertaining.” She also suggests porn musicals if you’re looking to keep the mood light.

Don’t make it the main event.
Even if you’ve been with your partner for a while, don’t forget the rest of the date. Have dinner, go out to a bar, or draw her a bubble bath before.

Use the experience to learn about her desires.

As you’re watching, keep an open mind. It’s unlikely that you know everything that turns your partner on or all the sexual experiences they’ve had in life. Being judgmental or reactive shuts everyone down. If they say they aren’t into something you express interest in, don’t wallow. Instead, ask them why or move on. Also, Cadell says not to assume that all women find porn demeaning or that all men who watch it are addicted.

Avoid discussion of who’s hotter.
Listen up to this one: “It’s really important that [men] don’t verbalize how hot they think the women are on the movie,” says Cadell. “It can make a woman feel insecure if she thinks a guy is watching the movie and fantasizing about the actress (the performer) instead of her.” Focus instead on erotic compliments the film inspires about your partner. Tell her what you like better about her body or sex techniques. It may seem contrived, but these can really help a woman feel confident and comfortable.

Use the movie to hint to your wants. tumblr_inline_nxz8oqhuqF1tdqqxt_540

This is not the smoothest move for the first time you watch porn together, but eventually, you might want to ease in some content that interests you that is less mainstream. “If you want your partner to do something specific to you, even if it’s a fetish — like a foot fetish — make sure you get a movie that has that in it and say, I’d really like to try that, that looks exciting, I think that would turn me on,” says Cadell.

By Taylor Kubota

Teens spend a ‘mind-boggling’ 9 hours a day using media, report says

By
November 18th, 2015

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that a new report found that teens and tweens spend a lot of time watching TV, videos and movies, playing video games, reading, listening to music and checking social media, but you might be somewhat shocked (I was!) by just how much time.

On any given day, teens in the United States spend about nine hours using media for their enjoyment, according to the report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit focused on helping children, parents and educators navigate the world of media and technology.

Why some 13-year-olds check social media 100 times a day

Let’s just put nine hours in context for a second. That’s more time than teens typically spend sleeping, and more time than they spend with their parents and teachers. And the nine hours does not include time spent using media at school or for their homework.

Tweens, identified as children 8 to 12, spend about six hours, on average, consuming media, the report found.

Parents, here’s how to stop the worst of social media

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“I think the sheer volume of media technology that kids are exposed to on a daily basis is mind-boggling,” said James Steyer, chief executive officer and founder ofCommon Sense Media, in an interview.

“It just shows you that these kids live in this massive 24/7 digital media technology world, and it’s shaping every aspect of their life. They spend far more time with media technology than any other thing in their life. This is the dominant intermediary in their life.”

The report, the first large-scale study to explore tweens and teens’ use of the full range of media, according to Common Sense Media, is based on a national sample of more than 2,600 young people ages 8 to 18.

 

When it comes to consuming media on screens, including laptops. smartphones and tablets, teens, on average, spend more than six and a half hours on screens and tweens more than four and a half hours, the report found.

Pediatricians to tweak ‘outdated’ screen time rules

“I just think that it should be a complete wake-up call to every parent, educator, policymaker, business person (and) tech industry person that the reshaping of our media tech landscape is first and foremost affecting young people’s lives and reshaping childhood and adolescence,” said Steyer, who’s most recent book is “Talking Back to Facebook: The Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age.”

The acronyms teens really use on social media

Here are a few more eye-opening highlights about the media habits of Generation Z, according to the report:

No. 1: What’s wrong with multitasking?

If teens are, on average, spending nine hours a day consuming media, it’s not such a surprise they’re often doing it while doing their homework. Half of teens say they “often” or “sometimes” use social media or watch TV while doing their homework. Some 60% say they text and more than 75% say they listen to music while working on schoolwork at home.

 

And of the kids who multitask, most don’t think it effects the quality of their work. Nearly two-thirds say watching TV or texting makes no difference and more than 50% feel the same way when it comes to social media.

“Teenagers think that multitasking during homework doesn’t affect their ability to learn and … we know it does,” said Steyer, citing studies such as one at Stanford,which found dramatic differences in cognitive control and the ability to process information between heavy media multitaskers and light media multitaskers.

“It’s completely obvious that you can’t multitask and be as effective and competent.”

No. 2: Boys choose Xbox, Girls Instagram

 

There are definite gender differences when it comes to media habits of teens and tweens.

Some 62% of teen boys say they enjoy playing video games “a lot” versus 20% of girls. When it comes to using social media, 44% of teen girls say they enjoy it “a lot” versus 29% for boys. Girls, on average, spend about 40 minutes more on social networks than boys, with girls spending about an hour and a half a day on social media and boys a little under an hour.

 

Is Instagram changing the world?

“I definitely think it shows that girls use media and technology today for more social interaction and boys are much more likely to be gamers, including addicted gamers,” said Steyer of Common Sense Media. “There are real differences between boys and girls so that’s a message to parents and educators, you have to be aware of the differences.”

No. 3: The digital equality gap is real

 

While ours kids are growing up in a 24/7 digital world, children in lower income households have less access to technology than kids from wealthier families. Only 54% of teens in households making less than $35,000 a year have a laptop in their home versus 92% of teens in households making $100,000 a year or more.

Forget TV! iPhones and iPads dazzle babies

“There’s an access gap that whether you like the impact of media or technology on our kids’ lives and there are pros and cons, the truth is poor kids have far less access than wealthy kids do and that’s just wrong especially when Internet platforms and digital platforms are so key to everything from school to getting a job to connecting with other people,” said Steyer. “So closing the digital inequality gap is a huge public-policy issue.”

No. 4: Guess what? TV and music still tops

 

Despite all the new media tweens and teens have at their disposal — everything from Instagram to YouTube to Xbox, tweens and teens still rank watching TV and listening to music as the activities they enjoy “a lot” and do every day, ahead of playing video games and mobile games, watching online videos and using social media. In fact, only 10% of teens ranked social media as their favorite activity.

“I think the bottom line there is it’s a utility now,” said Steyer referring to social media. “Increasingly kids are realizing that Facebook and Instagram and SnapChat, they go there and … they feel they have to go there but they don’t love it and that’s good. In my opinion, that’s good.”

Could a Facebook ‘Dislike’ button backfire among teens?

No. 5: ‘It’s a mobile world’

 

Consider these stats: 53% of tweens — kids 8 to 12 — have their own tablet (my kids will try to use this as ammunition to get a tablet of their own!), and 67% of teens have their own smartphones. Mobile devices account for 41% of all screen time for tweens and 46% for teens.

“It’s a mobile world so these kids live on mobile platforms,” said Steyer. “I mean if you look at the numbers, it’s clear that you have this clear transformation of teens and tweens’ lives through digital and mobile platforms.”

Teen ‘like’ and ‘FOMO’ anxiety

The implications of this digital transformation are huge for tweens and teens, educators, policymakers and parents. For one, living and communicating via mobile devices gets in the way of empathy, said Steyer.

Texting is so much less empathetic than having a conversation in person and looking somebody in the eye and having physical or at least a verbal presence with them, he said.

Add in the issues of digital addiction and the attention and distraction implications that come with mobile devices, and “empathy is really, really under siege,” he said.

“That’s a huge issue in terms of society and human relationships and how young people are evolving in a social, emotional context.” he added, saying more research is needed.

Common Sense Media’s next study, due out next year, is about the impact of digital addiction and distraction.

What surprises you about the new report on teen and tween media use? Share your thoughts withKelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Parents on Facebook.

 

What’s in your pad or tampon?

By
November 18th, 2015

About 70% of all American women use tampons. On average, a woman will use between 11,000 and 16,000tampons in her lifetime.

In fact, tampon-like devices have been used since ancient Rome, where women fashioned devices out of wool to absorb menstrual flow. Rolls of grass were used in parts of Africa, and Hawaiian women used ferns.

But what is actually in a modern-day tampon and pads?

Generally, tampons are blends of cotton and rayon, along with synthetic fibers, but each manufacturer’s products are different and considered proprietary.

Consumer groups in the United States have been wanting to know more since the 1980s. A growing environmental movement and awareness about toxic shock syndrome prompted women to ask what was in these products because manufacturers weren’t required to fully disclose what goes into a tampon or pad. That’s because they are regulated and approved as medical devices by the Food and Drug Administration and full disclosure is not required.

Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York has introduced legislation nine times since 1997 that would require manufacturers to be more transparent and disclose the complete makeup of tampons, pads, and other feminine hygiene products. She wants companies to clearly label not only the fabrics used, but also any contaminants, fragrances, colorants, dyes and preservatives. Her bill directs the National Institutes of Health to look at the health effects of these products, because, she says, there is little research in this area.

But her bill has failed to move beyond the floor, every time.

 Demands for more transparency

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 Last month, members of the consumer group Women’s Voices for the Earth dressed up as boxes of tampons and pads and protested in front of Procter & Gamble’s corporate headquarters. They held up signs that said, “My uterus loves accurate labels.”

According to market research group Euroshare, P&G is the largest manufacturers of feminine products, with 44% of the United States market share. Women’s Voices for the Earth wants manufacturers such as P&G to fully disclose what goes into tampons, sanitary pads and wipes.

“Our concerns of the care products … was out of the lack of ingredient disclosure,” said Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for Women’s Voices for the Earth. The group has been leading a two-year campaign it calls “Detox the Box.

When the group tested P&G’s Always pads, it found the sanitary napkins emitted chemicals, like styrene, chloroethane and chloroform. The World Health Organization classifies styrene as a carcinogen. And the EPA says short-term exposure to high concentrations of chloromethane can have neurological effects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says high levels of exposure to chloroethane can result in lack of muscle coordination and unconsciousness.

However, all the levels are accpetable under federal regulations. In a statement, Women’s Voices for the Earth said, “While the levels of the toxic chemicals emitted by Always pads were relatively low, their presence warrants health concerns for women.”

Tonia Elrod, a P&G spokeswoman, said the company hasn’t seen the complete study, but pointed out that these are naturally occurring chemicals found in the ambient air, and that the study did not measure the composition in their product.

Tucker Helmes, executive director of the Center for Baby and Adult Hygiene Products, an industry trade group, said there should be no concern about these chemicals. “There is more styrene in strawberries than there is in the air sample they measured in this study,” said Helmes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the industry, reviews all designs and materials. In May, the organization addressed concerns, responding to Internet allegations, which alleged that tampons are contaminated by asbestos and dioxin, which can lead to toxic shock syndrome.

The agency said, “The available scientific evidence does not support these rumors.”

 Manufacturers release more information

 In the past few weeks, both P&G, maker of Always pads and Tampax tampons, and Kimberly-Clark, maker of Kotex tampons and pads, have published additional information on their websites.

But microbiologist Philip Tierno of the New York University School of Medicine said that’s not enough. “Even if they list some ingredients, they may not be listing all of them.”

Tierno was one of the scientists who helped discover the link between toxic shock syndrome and tampons in the 1980s. He connected TSS to the synthetic materials that were used in superabsorbent tampons at the time.

The FDA says those synthetic products are no longer used in tampons sold in the United States.

“Those fibers amplified the bacteria staph, if a toxigenic strain was present,” Tierno said. About 20% of people naturally have the bacteria staph. At the height of the TSS scare in 1980, there were 890 cases reported to the CDC.

According to voluntary reports to the CDC, the number of TSS cases since 1998 has varied between 138 to as low as 65 in 2012.

But Tierno said there are still products using viscose rayon, which he called “the best of the four bad ingredients.”

 ‘A lot of dioxin’

 Rayon is a synthetic made from sawdust and a byproduct of it is dioxin, which the EPA says is likely carcinogenic. The FDA says that trace amounts of dioxin are not of concern for human health and that rayon tampons don’t have higher incidences of TSS.

“Sure, one tampon is trace,” said Tierno, “but consider the menstrual lifetime of a woman. They use approximately 12,000 tampons in a lifetime. That means 12,000 exposures of dioxin … five, six, seven times a day. That’s a lot of dioxin absorbed directly through the vagina. It goes directly into the blood.”

“Vaginal tissue isn’t like other skin. It’s covered in mucous membranes, it’s very permeable. It’s a direct route to your reproductive organs. We need to be really careful of these products,” said Scranton, of Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Bob Brand, spokesperson for Kimberly-Clark, said “Kimberly-Clark’s U by Kotex tampons are manufactured by a process that is both chlorine and dioxin-free. However, since dioxins can be found in the environment, Kimberly-Clark regularly tests for dioxins to ensure the safety of our products.” P&G said it also used a similar process.

And while companies are required to track their dioxin levels, neither company would offer to make those measurements public when asked.

 ‘Our products are safe’

 “Our member companies take into consideration lifetime use of these products, the materials they are made from, and the body areas they contact as part of their rigorous safety assessments,” said Helmes of the industry trade group.

But what may be of greater concern, said both Tierno and Scranton, are ingredients like “superabsorbent foam,” found in pads, or “fragrance” that doesn’t list any other details.

“We want to know what ‘flexfoam’ is made of. Is it rayon or cotton or both? What are the ‘fiber finishes’?” asked Scranton.

“Every single product contained in a tampon has to be researched. We already know the fibers contain dozens (of chemicals), polyester contains hundreds of chemicals. It’s not just a fiber you put in the vaginal vault,” said Tierno.

And the concern is not just for TSS, they say, but for adverse and allergic reactions. The FDA does catalog such complaints. Since 2014, there have been 270 claims made about tampons, and 12 claims about pads.

The complaints allege everything from TSS to the products breaking apart to allergic reactions.

Elrod of Proctor & Gamble stated plainly, “Our products are safe. That’s the foundation of everything that we do. We’re working with university scientists, FDA. Women can use our products safely.”

Brand of Kimberly-Clark said “Nothing is of greater concern to Kimberly-Clark than the quality of our products and the well-being of the consumers who use them. “

The FDA says women should choose a tampon with the minimum absorbency they need, and should consult their doctors.

The FDA requires manufacturers to provide labeling on packaging about the signs of TSS, and how to minimize risk.

By Nadia Kounang, CNN

How to talk to kids about tragic events

By
November 18th, 2015

Immediately after the horrific Paris attacks, so many parents took to social media asking this question: What do I tell my kids? How can I talk to them about something so senseless and indiscriminate? About something that we can’t make sense of ourselves?

“As parents, we are lost,” a mom of two young children, who lives in Paris, told CNN.

“When we feel ourselves bombarded by images of brutal, ruthless violence and evidence of unbridled hate, the question of how to protect our children is a complex one,” said Dr. Claudia Gold,a pediatrician, infant mental health specialist and author of “Keeping Your Child in Mind: Overcoming Defiance, Tantrums and Other Everyday Behavior Problems by Seeing the World through Your Child’s Eyes.” “We immediately jump to ask, ‘What do I say?’ “

Gold and other parenting experts I consulted for this story stressed that the age of children and their temperament really determines what — and how much — to share.

Limiting media exposure is key

If possible, children younger than 5 do not need to be told about what happened or exposed to any of the media coverage, said Tricia Ferrara, a licensed professional counselor, parenting strategist and author of “Parenting 2.0: Think in the Future, Act in the Now.” “Keeping to routine is the best way to reassure children about the safety of their immediate world,” she said.

Related: One in four school-aged kids exposed to weapon violence, study says

Children ages 6 to 11 need just basic facts and minimal exposure to media coverage, she said, adding that there are definite lessons from what children saw in the media following the September 11, 2001, attacks. She points to studies that found that children who had repeated and prolonged exposure to media images had more difficulty with anxiety than kids with less exposure.

In a statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged parents to be careful with images that children see following the Paris terror attacks. “As pediatricians, we know that violence can have lasting effects on children even if they are only learning about it through the media,” the statement said. The organization offered more resources for parents on how to talk to children about mass tragedies.

“A child will store the event in memory based on the narrative you assign the event,” Ferrara said. “For this age range, stick to basic facts and turn off the TV.”

Dr. Gail Saltz, associate professor of psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, agrees, and said parents of young children should “stick to basic broad-stroke facts” and avoid any “nitty gritty details that are disturbing.”

Parents should then communicate to their children an openness and willingness to talk, answering their questions and listening to their feelings, she said.

“Make it clear you understand their feelings. In other words, don’t blow them off or avoid their feelings. This can be hard when they’re (being) upset makes you more upset,” said Saltz, author of“The Anatomy of a Secret Life.” “But expressing their feelings will help them to cope. Then be reassuring about all of the security at work protecting us, and how rare an event this really is.”

 How to reassure your child

 

Reassurance is one of the most important things parents can provide children during a time of tragedy, when they fear it could happen to them, said Dr. Glenn Saxe, chairman of the department of child and adolescent psychiatry at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, in a previous interview.

“The first kind of thought and feeling is, ‘Am I safe? Are people close to me safe? Will something happen? Will people I depend on protect me?’ ” said Saxe, who is also director of the NYU Child Study Center.

Related: When mental illness affects your family

“You want to be assuring to your child, you want to communicate that you’re … doing everything you can do to keep them safe,” Saxe said. “You also want to not give false assurances, too. And this is also depending on the age of the child. You have to be real about it as well.”

It helps, too, for parents to acknowledge their own fears about how to keep children safe, even amid unpredictable violence, said Gold, whose book “The Silenced Child: From Labels, Medications, and Quick-Fix Solutions to Listening, Growth and Lifelong Resilience” is due out next year. It might seem counterintuitive, but acknowledging uncertainty can help parents connect with their children, and lead to a stronger sense of safety and security.

“It is frightening, but as the people of Paris who took to the streets expressed, we will not be afraid,” Gold said. “When our children can sense that courage in us, they too will not be afraid. When we can manage our own anxieties, we are in a better position to listen to the responses of our children, which may differ according to their unique individual qualities.”

Dr. Joe Taravella, supervisor of pediatric psychology at NYU Langone Medical Center’s Rusk Rehabilitation, said parents should not be afraid to show their own emotions about tragic events. Children pick up on the “emotional temperature that’s in the home,” even if we think we’re hiding how we truly feel, he said.

“We are our children’s role models, so we should be leading by example at all times and when we’re sad,” said Taravella. “We talk about our sadness so we can talk about us being fearful and sad that this happened, but then, I always try and end on the positive to help them cope or deal with it, that we are a family and that we support each other as a family.”

Parents should also be mindful of any changes in their children’s behavior after learning about a tragedy, Taravella said.

“I would try and put their behaviors into words like saying, ‘I see that you’ve been more cranky lately or more upset, I’m wondering if something’s going on, if you feel upset about something,’ ” he said, which might help them communicate what they are feeling.

Helping teens open up

 

For teens, who will most likely have heard about the attacks through social media or news coverage, it is best to start by asking what they know, Ferrara said.

“Initially, it is possible they may not have much to say,” she said, but they might revisit the topic when something connects to them personally.

“Events like this sometimes defy language, and a teen may struggle to discuss. However, remain open for these emerging adults. They need to know that they matter and that the world’s complexity is in dire need of their taking the time to think about and understand what it means to be global citizens,” she said.

“It is a shared responsibility that none of us, parent or young adult child, is able to avoid.”

What do you think is the best way to talk to children about tragic events? Share your thoughts withKelly Wallace on Twitter @kellywallacetv or CNN Parents on Facebook.