With a wide swath of Moncton in full lockdown as the manhunt of Justin Bourque unfolds, parents are facing another set of challenges—what to say to their kids.

People living in the search area have been on high alert since Wednesday night.

Heidi James was watching cartoons with her family when she heard five loud bangs outside her home.

She then took refuge in her basement with her husband and two kids.

“Our children were not really aware of the gravity, of the seriousness of the situation, so we managed to convince them that it was a fun sleep-out in a different part of the house,” she told CBC Thursday morning after a sleepless night.

“We’ll have to come up with a different plan for today to explain why they’re not at school and why the doors and windows are blocked.”

Dr. Patrick McGrath, a clinical psychologist at the IWK Health Centre, said the approach parents take will vary based on the age, personality and development of the child. 

But he said it’s better for children to find out what’s going on from their parents, than through friends or news media.

'If you’re telling your child that there’s no risk and then they behave in a way that is foolish, then you’re putting them in harm’s way'- Dr. Patrick McGrath, clinical psychologist

For parents of children who are in the lockout zone, the number one priority is following the directions of police to ensure the safety of children.

McGrath recommends controlling children’s exposure to whatever is fearful, such as TV, radio, or social media. 

NB RCMP -shooting

Emergency response officers check a residence in Moncton, N.B. on Thursday, June 5, 2014. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

He said parents should calmly share their concerns without showing excessive fear. 

“You have to find that middle ground where you share your concerns, but you don’t want to infect your child with too much anxiety.”

He said parents should judge for themselves the appropriate response for their child.

“Comfort them the way you always comfort your own child. Each family is different and in general being close to your kids and taking care of their needs is the best way to comfort them.”