East Tenn. expert shares how to help children cope with school shootings

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Another community is dealing with the aftermath of a school shooting. A 17-year-old student opened fire inside Santa Fe High School in Texas, killing 10 students and teachers and injuring 10 others.

In a heartbreaking interview, one of the survivors said she had been waiting for something like this to happen and that it was only a matter of time. Students across the country are likely feeling the same way, so experts say it’s important for families to have conversations about these concerns.

Kristin Bradley, counselor at the Helen Ross McNabb Center, says to help their children with their fears, parents should explore the safety plans at their school and how to stay safe when there is an active shooter. If they don’t feel safe at school, let the child know they share that with the teacher, guidance counselor and/or the principal. The professionals at school can help them feel more safe.

Also make sure they know that if they see something, say something. Every student and teacher plays a roll in keeping the school safe.

Sometimes it can be hard for parents to even begin conversations about school shootings. Bradley says the first step is to take time to understand why school shootings happen. For example, understand mental health and adverse childhood experiences. The impact those have on a child is strong.

Also, explore solutions, like having better mental services within the school systems and community, building reliance in children, and teaching children how to verbally work through their problems.

Authorities say the alleged gunman idd not have any history of mental illness or legal issues. Some of the warnings parents should look for are violent fantasy content, interest in previous school shootings, a history of violence, disciplinary issues or anger problems, and being a loner or withdrawn.

If a student is showing these warnings signs, take time to understand what’s going on with the child. Don’t just assume you know. Connect them to a safe adult they trust and talk to. Support them in finding a mental health provider to develop appropriate coping skills and problem solving skills.

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