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Experts share tips on how to address school shootings with your children

Posted at 7:53 AM, Feb 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-28 11:29:59-05

Two experts in Central Texas provided advice for parents concerned that the coverage of school shootings could be taking an emotional toll on their kids. 

Two weeks ago the deadliest school shooting in the last five years left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida. The images have been aired over and over again. 

Dr. Ronald Coleman Jr., a pediatrician, stresses if you see a change in your youngster's behavior, be concerned.

"Any information about a tragedy or an event must be filtered by an adult or parents because children are emotionally immature," Dr. Coleman said.  "They may have recurrent symptoms or signs of sadness or irritability. They may withdraw or you may even see a drop in their school performance."

Dr. Tancy Horn-Johnson suggests talking with your teens about what happened.

"I think if they are concerned, a good place to start would be to talk together as a family," Dr. Horn-Johnson said.

But for those kids, who are really young, her advice is to test their knowledge. "I don't recommend talking about the incident with small children like that unless there's a risk they're going to hear it someplace," she said. 

The shooting rampage is also raising awareness about the stigma attached to mental illness. Nikolas Cruz, 19, told investigators he heard voices in his head. It's reported he was also depressed after his adoptive mother's death back in November.

"We need to be able to recognize the difference between a mental illness and violent behavior," Dr. Coleman said.  "In fact, most people who have mental illness are not violent, they become victims of violence."

A 2009 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association highlighted the discrepancy.  It shows 75 percent of people view those with mental illness as dangerous and 60 percent believe that those with Schizophrenia are more likely to commit violent acts.  Research has shown that mental illness is not generally linked to violence against others, but instead to self-harm.

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