HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - After school lock downs from threats and the shooting Thursday at a school in California, WDAM checked in with a local expert on how you can talk to your children at home regarding these horrifying experiences.
"The first thing I would recommend to parents is to assess what the child knows," said Amanda Heitmuller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker at The Hope Center in Hattiesburg.
Heitmuller has been working with children in this setting since 2001. She said many times children are getting information from peers and seeing reports from social media and TV, but it's important to talk to your children no matter their age.
"With elementary, it would be more to discuss the school's safety and remind them there is a reason they have check-ins and locked exterior doors and cameras," Heitmuller said.
With older children it's important to speak on the child's level and don't just give simple answers.
"Engage them in conversation and ask them what they want to know," Heitmuller said. "Don't sugar coat it because these kids are aware of a lot more than we realize. But, in the same breath, I would also recommend tuning down some of the stuff that is on TV and social media because it can be overwhelming to children."
If a situation has happened inside a school your child attends, Heitmuller said schools do a good job of bringing professionals in to concentrate on group work, but if that is not helping the child move forward, it's important to seek a mental health professional.
"We do see kids that have PTSD and high anxiety after episodes such as today," Heitmuller said. "So, you really have to focus what area the child is struggling in."
If you are seeking a mental health professional for your child to see, visit The Hope Center's website.