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Boston youth mental health experts say it’s crucial to address Texas school shooting with children


Updated: 6:28 AM EDT May 25, 2022

Nathalie Pozo

NEEDHAM, Mass. —

Parents in Massachusetts and around the country are facing a tough conversation with their children following Tuesday’s deadly school shooting in Texas.

The shooting may seem like an unspeakable horror, but mental health experts say it is crucial for parents to talk about it with their kids.

“They really need to hear from parents that they are safe and there’s lots of ways to tell that to kids,” said Dr. Erica Lee, a psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Lee said as children are processing the tragedy, parents should use their words to establish a sense of safety.

“Letting them know that you’re doing everything that you can to protect them; that you would never send them to school if you thought they were going to be unsafe, the school has a good safety plan,” Lee said.

Dr. Khadijah Booth-Watkins, a psychiatrist and associate director of the Clay Center for Youth Healthy Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, said it is vital for parents to manage their emotions before approaching their children because physical soothing is as important as words.

“They feed off of us. They cue off of us and so if we’re not in control, we are going to be unable to help them manage their anxieties and help them gain a sense of calm and safety,” Booth-Watkins said.

Booth-Watkins said it is very unfortunate that this conversation is coming up again, but noted that it is important not to become desensitized and complacent about school shootings.

“Maybe remind them of in the grand scheme of things, although it seems like we’re talking about this all the time, this is not happening all the time and in most places,” she said. “So really kind of help them put it into context.”

Lee and Booth-Watkins said if parents see a change in their child’s eating or sleeping habits, or if they’re having a hard time going to school, they should seek further guidance.


Important Notice:

We have been thinking a lot about all of the recent events, the cascade of news of gun violence across this country, and how we see our own community mirrored in so many of the ones permanently impacted by these tragedies. We want to reach out to you in love and support, to let you know that, particularly when you go to the market, or send your children to school, we feel how difficult these simple acts have become, and to let you know we are here for you.

Please know that if you are experiencing strong feelings that feel out of the ordinary and seem to last – numbness, sadness, anger, fear, grief – that this is a normal reaction to not-at-all normal circumstances.

Please know that as a community​ health center, we are here to listen. We care deeply about your health and well-being and want you to know you can come to us for support.

Talk to your Family Medicine provider, your Behavioral Health provider, any of the caring professionals at Harvard Street, and keep talking to us. We cannot solve the problems of gun violence alone, but as a community, we pledge to support and stand with you until we can all feel well and safe.