How to talk to your children heading back to school after Christchurch mosque attacks

Parents are being given advice including to reassure their children they're safe as a very different Monday morning dawns following Friday's Christchurch mosque attacks which have claimed the lives of 50 people.

It's been a long three days in the Garden City that has left residents grappling with fear, uncertainty and vulnerability.   

Yet today the return to normalty begins as students of all ages head back to school. 

There'll be friends missing at Cashmere High School where three of the pupils were excused on Friday for afternoon for prayers at the Al Noor Mosque. 

"Two of those students officially are still missing and another student who is in hospital with gunshot wounds. We are also aware we had two fathers of children who were shot as well," said Mark Wilson, Cashmere High Principal. 

"We've put a number of things in place to make sure students and staff are going to be safe and supported," he said.

"Schools serve a valuable function in trying to establish a regular routine. When people are in trauma, that regular routine is very important."

Some parents are concerned about their children's return to school, especially those whose youngsters spent Friday afternoon in lockdown.

"When we got home after school they were both very upset and I said to them 'yeah, it's really fine to feel the way you do, and we all have these big feelings and we're all feeing like this'," said Sarah Brunton, a mother.

Psychologist Nathan Wallis says young children can respond differently to trauma and parents are best placed judge whether they're ready to return to school. 

"Listen to yourself, listen to your instincts. If you think your children aren't coping or you think there's a concern then I would keep them at home," he said.

The advice for teenagers who are struggling is keep them offline. 

"I would say take all social media away for the next week. They don't need it. They need social interaction and they need their community so have sleepovers so they can talk to their friends," Mr Wallis said. 

The very latest parental advice from the Ministry of Health is to reassure children the event is over and that they're safe.  

Parents are also advised to encourage children to talk about what happened and that it's normal to feel upset. Also, give them extra love and attention and return to a normal routine as soon as possible. 

"Don'ts" include not repeating traumatic details as this can be harmful.  Don't tell your child not to worry or be upset but acknowledge their feelings.

And try not to be over protective - letting them play outside or visit friends offers reassurance their world is safe again.  

But that's not an easy ask right now. 

"Just to have people who live in our community hurt in this way, it's just, just hard to put into words," one upset father said. 

It's a sentiment everyone in Christchurch seems to understand as a new week dawns in a city shrouded in grief.

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There's expert advice on how to talk to your children as life's rhythms resume for those not directly affected by the tragedy. Source: 1 NEWS