A LEADING psychologist has warned of the difficulties of dealing with grieving children when facts aren't clear.
Child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg advised there was no generic way to deal with the topic of death, but believed honesty and reassurance were key.
The Lockhart community was hit on Tuesday with news four of its members had been tragically found shot dead.
Forty-one-year-old mother Kim Hunt and her three children, Fletcher, 10, Mia, eight, and Phoebe, six, were found at their property on the Lockhart-Boree Creek Road yesterday, while husband and father, 44-year-old Geoff Hunt, was located in a dam on the property at about 2.15pm today.
Dr Carr-Gregg offered expert advice for Riverina children and their parents.
"Very young children don't have a very clear understanding of the universality or finality of death so it's really important to understand there's no generic understanding of death," he said.
Dr Carr-Gregg explained infants and toddlers responded to their caregiver's emotions, while pre-schoolers saw death as temporary or reversible, usually mistaking it for sleep or someone away.
It wasn't until children were between five and 11 that they fully understood death, he added.
"Parents need to be patient and good listeners," he said.
"They need to reassure kids that they're loved, they're surrounded by a safe family and that police are investigating and then we'll know more.
"I think it's pretty important to teach kids they can take comfort they're not alone in their feelings.
"Saying we don't know is really good because we don't want to speculate as long as we reassure them they're safe."
Dr Carr-Gregg said it was best to explain the situation as something has happened, people have died and that it was important not to speculate until facts were confirmed.
How to talk about death with:
Infants and toddlers: explain what has happened, but reassure their safety
Pre-schoolers: explain the facts, state it is irreversible, reassure their safety and eliminate speculation
Five to 11-year-olds: keep them informed with facts, reassure their safety and eliminate speculation