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Therapist says talking to kids about trauma caused by shootings is first step in healing

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Wong Maye-E
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Cherlette McCullough, a Winter Park marriage and family therapist, discusses how to talk to children about mass shootings and when to get help.

At least 21 people were shot to death at an elementary school in Texas, just days after a mass shooting at a church in California and a grocery store in New York. 

WMFE’s Danielle Prieur spoke with Cherlette McCullough, a marriage and family therapist in Winter Park, about how to talk to kids about the shootings and when to get help. 

Click on the Listen button above to hear the interview.

Photo: Cherlette McCullough
Cherlette McCullough

Interview highlights

On how to talk to elementary school kids about the school shooting: “I think, an organic conversation with the smaller children around what do you know, and how are you feeling and validating those feelings that they’re having around what’s going on, and you’ll be surprised how much they know, and how much they internalize, and how they’re really coping with it altogether.”

On how to talk to older kids about the shooting: “Same thing, asking them what they know, how are they feeling? You know, what do they feel about this? What did they think could have happened different and talking about those things.”
On whether parents should take their kids out of school: “I don’t think it is the best thing to keep them out of school or to feed into that conversation around, ‘I’m letting you stay home because I don’t want anything to happen to you.’ Because, you know, honestly, school has been a safe place. You know, it has been a safe place for for our children for a long time.”

On a resource she’d recommend for families: “It’s called the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. You can Google it and there, they have all these resources, different topics that you can talk about with your child. They have step-by-step things that you can do with your children to help, you know process different traumatic events that they’ve experienced.”
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Danielle Prieur