How to talk to kids about mass shootings

GILROY, Calif. (KGO) -- Three mass shootings in less than a month, back-to-school around the corner, no doubt parents are struggling with how to speak to their children about the recent spate of violence across the country.

Mary Harmish has the kind of expertise you don't want to have but absolutely need. She has been talking to hundreds of people who attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival and now, processing the trauma of the experience. She has fielded many questions form parents who are struggling or fear talking their kids about what happened.

RELATED: Bay Area residents say back-to-back shootings becoming hard to process

Her advice, "The parent is the best place to go, they know their child the best, they're the expert on their own child and that's where they should be getting their healing information and the majority of their information."

Harmish describes healing information as a way of talking to children in a manner that's therapeutic, loving and compassionate. She also reminds those dealing with children's questions to take into account their personal situation and spiritual beliefs.

"We want to avoid as parents retraumatizing our children, to avoid terminology like 'mass shooting' 'active shooter.' Children can generally handle the concept of hearing the word death, certain honesty and transparency is best," she said.

At the victims assistance center in Gilroy, staff from Santa Clara County's District Attorney's Office must also prepare for those who are picking up lost items, ensuring that they have the support they need to deal with intense emotions.

"Victims are going to be reunited with their property and then they'll go into a private room with a victims specialist. The victims specialist will be able to support if they feel like they're reliving personal trauma," said Adam Flores from the DA's office.

RELATED: 'I just wanted to get them to medical help,' Man rescues multiple victims shot during Gilroy Garlic Festival

Gilroy Victims Assistance Center, run by Santa Clara District Attorney's Office, offer services which include counselling and victims assistance funds.

Lost items left at Festival Grounds and vehicles, will be available for pick-up.

For victim services you can go to:

Wheeler Community Center

270 W 6th St
Gilroy Public Library
350 W 6th St
Hours: 11am-7pm, Tuesday to Friday

Get the latest on the deadly Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting here.
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