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Talking to Kids About Shootings | Overview

August 12, 2019

Many families are reeling from the number of mass shootings so far this year. Recently Boston Children’s Health Physicians’ Chief of Pediatric Psychology & Neuropsychology, Arlene Adler, PhD, was interviewed on the topic. Watch the News 12 video for tips to help parents navigate this challenging subject with their children.



Video Transcript

Newsreporter #1: As the nation grapples with the mass shooting incidents, some parents around the country are trying to answer difficult questions about these horrible incidents from their children. FIOS 1's Jessica Vallejo sat down with a local child psychologist, who has some advice for concerned parents. 

Dr. Arlene Adler: It's really terrible what's happened out there, it's frightening, and they have a reason to be afraid cause it's real and imminent danger. 

Newreporter #2: Doctor Arlene Adler, the Chief Pediatric Psychologist and Neuropsychologist at Boston Children's Health Physicians says with these terrible mass shootings that occurred over the weekend in Texas and Ohio, it is absolutely normal for your child to be scared. And if he or she is asking questions, it's actually a good thing. Doctor Adler says you don't want your child to refrain from talking about it, so it's time for parents to listen and speak. 

Dr. Arlene Adler: So I would say  "Let's talk about this" and you do it in a way where you normalize it and say  "yeah, this is serious, this is bad, you know, this is scary." And then you empathize and say '"yeah it makes a lot of sense that you're scared", and then you listen. You listen to what the child has to say. And do it in a way where you don't interrupt what they're saying or correct some of their misstatements or their perceptions. It's not about getting it right, but it's about having the child be heard and understood.

Newsreporter #2: If you don't talk to your child, Dr. Adler says he or she may  tend to shut down, which can cause anxiety. So if your child is asking questions like "Why did the person do that?"  or "Is the person bad?" or "Am I bad because i play with video games?", Doctor Adler says answer them, and this is how she would do it.

Dr. Arlene Adler: Playing video games doesn't make you a bad person at all. It makes you a kid who likes video games. Is that person a bad person because he has a gun?  You'd have to reframe that question a bit, you know, not all people who have guns are bad people. But what happened in Texas and in Ohio is bad, it's dangerous, these people did.

Newsreporter #2: But spending less time explaining the motives and making sure your child feels safe should be the number one priority, Doctor Adler says.

Dr. Arlene Adler: You're gonna give them the hope and optimism at this time, and that you're going to deal with it as a family, and together. 

Newsreporter #2: If your child continues to feel fear over a period of six months, then Doctor Adler suggests bringing him or her to speak to a psychologist.