How to talk to your kids about the Florida school shooting

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Lots of parents are once again having tough conversations with their kids about mass shootings, following the massacre at a high school in Parkland, FL.

So how do you have those conversations?

For the answer, we spoke to Dr. Lolita McDavid, Director of Child Advocacy and Protection at University Hospitals.

"Number one, you answer your child's questions right away, to the best of your ability. So if they say, 'can this happen at my school?' I think you have to tell children now."

Dr. McDavid said when it comes to kids and conversations like this, honesty is the best policy. That doesn't mean you should overload them with details, though.

"At some point, you really get fatigued. I mean, you really do. We have to think about how scary this is for kids. So it's actually okay to turn it off," she said.

That could mean simply turning off the television or taking away the tablet.

"Move to something else. Think about something else. It's not going to go away, but you don't have to obsess over it," McDavid said.

On the other hand, she says, if your child wants to become an advocate for a cause they care about, whether that's engaging with their school about safety or writing to their own legislators, you should let them do that, in order for them to feel proactive and empowered.

As more details emerge about the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz, students said they noticed he was showing signs of mental illness.

He'd been expelled from the high school where he allegedly gunned down his former classmates.

McDavid said even if you know someone who has mental illness, that doesn't mean you have the power to prevent a tragedy.

"The scary thing to me is the number of kids who knew he was obsessed with guns and he had guns. so what do they do? They tell their parents and the parents may talk to the school about it. But there's only so much you can do," she said.  "If he has not acted out on anyone, there's not a lot you can do."

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