The nation continues to grapple with the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

A handwritten sign reads 'Pray for Newtown'
A handwritten sign reads 'Pray for Newtown' (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Mental health professionals are stressing the importance of talking to children about the tragedy and helping those subjected to the traumatic events that unfolded that day from suffering with long-term effects.

Proper support is key in helping children move on and feel safe again.

"First, it's important to talk to children about their concerns and reassure them that this shooting is an isolated incident that doesn't happen often," said Dr. Christine Tintorer, a child and adolescent psychiatrist with the Barnabas Behavioral Health Network at Monmouth Medical Center. "Parents should tell children that it's normal to feel anxious or sad when a traumatic event like this occurs. Talk to children about what to do if they are afraid and encourage them to find an adult to speak to."

"The families who have been most directly affected by this tragedy will have to be supported for a very long time," said Dr. Maurice Elias, Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University. "So much has to do with the immediate routines the kids will get into following the funerals. Once they are set up in school, routines will be the most important thing to help the kids feel a sense of stability and reassurance. There will be some kids who are more profoundly affected than others. Some kids will have disturbed patterns of sleep, they may be more withdrawn and more anxious. That is to be expected."

Excessive amounts of reassurance will be of utmost importance.

"They will need a lot of hugs. For them to just experience on a day to day basis that their lives are getting back to the way they used to be albeit, they are going to have losses. Parents and school officials and counselors can talk with them and help them try to make sense of their feelings. The very youngest of these children may not be immediately affected by the loss. These are kids who, as they get older, may have delayed effects of grief and feeling traumatized."

What signs can parents look for?

"Any changes that occur. Children who are active may become more withdrawn, children who are calm may become more nervous, children who sleep well may have their patterns disrupted, children who eat well and then their food intake patterns change. Some kids may be ultra sensitive to loud sounds as well," said Elias. "These kids are going to need a close, watchful eye kept on them for a number of years."

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