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Bringing your family together after the Newtown massacre

Monday - 12/17/2012, 3:20pm  ET

Stress after Conn. massacre: How will it impact the holidays?

Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Mindful Living Network and the Stress Institute

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WASHINGTON - As residents of Newtown, Conn. lay to rest the youngest victims of last week's massacre, the rest of the nation continues to reel from the tragedy that claimed 27 lives.

Many parents are wondering how to talk to their children about what happened, or how to comfort those struggling to make sense of it all. Kathleen Hall, founder and CEO of the Mindful Living Network and the Stress Institute, tells WTOP the best way to cope with the stress is to remember what is important in life.

"Focus your family on gratitude," she says.

Hall recommends writing little notes every day and sticking them on the Christmas tree for all to see. They should include things you are thankful for - like family or friends - and can be shared with the whole family.

"Don't forget to be grateful for a support system," she says. "Newtown gave us an image of what a support system does for a family and neighbors and community. This is a good example for all of us."

Another way to handle the stress is to focus your energy on helping others, she says. Volunteering brings people together, especially during the holidays.

"It creates communication between your family about how to have compassion for others," Hall says. "It heals and creates joy for your family."

If you don't have much time outside of the home, make the most of your time inside your home. Family dinners are a great way to bond without even realizing you're actually strengthening relationships. Get your kids to participate by suggesting they pick the meals or help cook them, Hall suggests.

"This will create communication: laughter, touching, they'll hug you while you're cooking," she says. "You have no idea how powerful and healing [it can be] and it will move them through this process."

For more tips, listen to the entire WTOP interview.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)