Expert advises parents on talking to kids about school shootings

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, SC (WSPA) - An Upstate mental health expert is weighing in on how school shootings can affect children miles away from the scene.

This insight comes after the deadly shooting in Florida.Charlton Hall chairs the behavioral health department at ReGenesis Health Care, and said the school shooting in Parkland, Florida made it to the minds of his patients who've dealt with trauma. "Because it's just another reminder that the world isn't always a safe place," said Hall. It's a conversation he said parents need to have in their homes too. "[Help children] understand that unfortunately, this is the world we live in now and these things do happen," he said. "The longer you [parents] sweep it under the rug, the more you're going to have to deal with it at some point in the future."Hall advised limiting how much children are exposed to news of these shootings and leave out the graphic details for younger children, while avoiding information they don't ask for."Too much information for a small child would be something like going into graphic detail about what happened, about how many people were killed.Just let them know that something bad happened, and let the child be your guide," he said. "But, in the same way be realistic. Don't try to minimize the danger, either." He says to remind children school shootings are possible, but not always probable. "Assure them that they're safe. Review the procedures with the school," said Hall "And it's important that they are looking to you as a role model as well so if they feel stressed out, they're looking to you as to how to respond to that."And, while at their own schools he says kids need to know making threats are never funny. "If I hear a child making what they think is a joke saying that they're going to shoot up a school or if a teacher hears that, or any kind of professional who's a mandated reporter hears that, they're required by law to report that," said Hall. "It's a very serious thing and can impact the rest of your life - it can keep you from getting into college, getting a job."It's a concern Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright addressed during a Tuesday press conference.   "We take all threats very seriously. If you are 13, 14, 15 and up and want to post something on snap chat and think no one will know. You might see my ugly mug coming to your door and put handcuffs on you," said Sheriff Wright. "It is time for our schools -- all schools all over the country, not just here -- to stop worrying about your reputation and let law enforcement help you. Because when you don't tell us that these things are going on, and it happens, and then we find out you know about it and nothings been really done, where does it lead us? It lead us right back to peg one." Hall said joking about these shootings could indicate a child needs professional help. "The joking about it is a sign of vicarious trauma or a sign of compassion fatigue - They've become so overwhelmed by it, it's become routine," he said.

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