Mental health officials offer advice on talking to children abou - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Mental health officials offer advice on talking to children about Connecticut school tragedy

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Parents of school-aged children who hear about Friday's shooting deaths of 27 people at a Connecticut elementary school should be honest when explaining what happened, but remind them that adults are always working to provide them with a safe environment, a San Diego County mental health official said.

These kinds of mass shootings are rare, especially at an elementary school, Alfredo Aguirre, the director of County Behavioral Health Services, told City News Service. Violent incidents are more associated with the middle and high school levels, he said.

"This is quite unusual, incredibly tragic,'' Aguirre said.

He said children will be aware that something happened, so parents will have to explain what took place, tailored to the child's age. With most schools in session one more week before the holiday break, students will have to be reminded that campus officials have response plans in place and are prepared, he said.

He said parents need to remain a calming influence, even though they have to send off their children to school, or have nephews, nieces or neighborhood kids to worry about.

"We all have this sense of vulnerability,'' Aguirre said.

Families should maintain their normal activities and make sure the television isn't blaring news of the tragedy all day, he said.

Parents should monitor their children for loss of sleep, loss of appetite or changes in social behavior. If a problem develops, they can call the county's 24-hour Access and Crisis Line at (888)724-7240.

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