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Mental health expert stresses importance of talking to children about safety after threats, shootings

Whitney Rupp for Shaw Media
Police are seen on the campus of Cary-Grove High School on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 after a threat was made on Monday night on social media.
Whitney Rupp for Shaw Media Police are seen on the campus of Cary-Grove High School on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018 after a threat was made on Monday night on social media.

CRYSTAL LAKE – More and more, children are concerned with security in the wake of recent shootings at schools and elsewhere, one Rosecrance official said.

Clinical director of McHenry County and Wisconsin services Debbie Smith said it’s important for parents to listen to what their children are saying and normalize what they are feeling.

“We also want them to know if they are worried or concerned about something, they should always tell an adult right away and not just keep it to themselves,” Smith said. “The best thing to do as counselors or parents is to let them know it’s normal to feel the way that they do.”

If parents feel their child is experiencing more anxiety than normal, they should call the school counselor or call for professional counseling.

Smith said recent events – from school threats to shootings at a concert – are a good opportunity to have conversations about how to stay safe in any situation.

“One of my daughters came home and mentioned one of the teachers was talking to them about whichever classroom they go to, keep in mind what your exit would be,” Smith said. “It’s preparing themselves for if they were in a certain place, how could I get out of here if I had to.”

Additionally, students should feel comfortable enough to talk to a principal or social worker and not keep any cyberbullying or situations to themselves, Smith said.

Regarding the decision to send a student to school after a threat has been made, Smith said it’s up to the parent and she doesn’t believe schools would persuade them either way.

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