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Arden Church Shooting Leads To Discussions Over How To Talk Tragedy With Kids

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- Processing emotions is hard for anyone, let alone children. The three young victims of the tragic church shooting in Arden range in age from 9 to 13 years old, meaning their friends now have to find ways to cope.

It's a difficult conversation to have with your children at any age

"When they keep asking why, how am I going to tell them?" mom Jennifer Ramos questioned.

Ramos is still trying to find the right words to comfort her two daughters, 9-year-old Estella and 13-year-old Nevaeh, days after their friends all died at the hands of their own father during a supervised visit at The Church in Sacramento.

"All I can do is be there for both of them," she said.

Estella knows the basics of what happened.

"I'm sad that this happened. It's her own father, I don't get why he would do that to her," Estella said.

And older sister Nevaeh, who was friends with Samia Mora Gutierrez, knows the details.

"It breaks my heart," explained Nevaeh. "With everything going on in my mind, plus the memories…it's just a lot to hold on to, especially at a young age. It's difficult, it's sad, it's just a lot."

Both sisters are processing their own way.

"I'm still in disbelief," explained Neveah.

"Just thinking about the happy moments, the moments that were great," said Estella.

So how should you talk to children about something like this? UC Davis Health child psychologist Dr. Brandi Hawk says it's different for every age.

"You want to be honest and let your kids lead the conversation," she explained.

Dr. Hawk suggests parents model good coping skills, allow their kids to see them cry, spend time creating happy moments with family and keep a routine. She also suggests using these tools from the national child traumatic stress network to help start the conversation.

CBS13 asked Dr. Hawk how parents should approach talking to their kids about fears they may have about their parents' role as their protector.

"The first easiest answer is to say 'No, I would never hurt you.' The job of a parent is to protect their children, to keep them safe, to play with them and love them. Sometimes, unfortunately, parents aren't able to do that 'these are the ways that I am making sure that you are safe,'" explained Dr. Hawk. "Some people are sick, people are sick in their bodies and some people are sick in their minds and it's really sad but his sickness took over."

For now, Ramos' family is focusing on happier times and taking their healing one day at a time.

"We are going to talk about all the good that they did," explained Ramos.

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