Suffer the children: How parents can talk to kids in the wake of a school shooting

CINCINNATI - At the happiest time of year for many children came the unthinkable: a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead.

The Mental Health Association of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio provides a number of tip sheets for people dealing with the aftermath of a crisis, including one specifically addressing the unique emotional needs of children.

Speaking to kids about the unspeakable

Fans of the WCPO - 9 On Your Side Facebook page have been talking about the incident all day, many posting messages of heartache and sympathy. We asked people how they would talk about the shooting with their children and reassure them they are safe.

Parents should never have to think twice about sending their children to school each day. It makes me wonder if I should consider home schooling my children. My heart goes out to the families. - Amy L.

I am debating whether or not to tell my 2nd grader. There are so many things that I try to shield her from. I want to tell her how to stay safe in a situation like this, but I don't want to scare her either. - Janene W.M.

How DO you explain this to your children? Mine are grown now, but I have grade school age grandchildren. "You don't have to be afraid, sweetie, this would never happen to you" wouldn't cut it. I'm sure each and every single one of the families who lost a child today could have said that very sentence to their students before school this morning. - Joan B.D.

Communication is key

Liz Atwell, chief operating officer of the Mental Health Association of Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio, told 9 On Your Side her organization has not seen an uptick in calls from the public Friday. She said local schools are reaching out to parents to offer resources and support as needed.

"The best advice I have is just to encourage people to communicate," Atwell said.

9 On Your Side also spoke with Dr. Charle Collins from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center about the resources available to meet the needs of people with psychiatric emergencies.  UCMC has a mobile crisis team that can be reached at (513) 584-8577.  To learn more click the video link on this page.

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