Experts discuss ways to talk to your kids about Maine mass shooting

Many families vacation in Maine and parents in Massachusetts may be wondering how to discuss the incident with their children who recognize the proximity.
Published: Oct. 27, 2023 at 1:41 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Many families vacation in Maine and parents in Massachusetts may be wondering how to discuss the incident with their children who recognize the proximity.

Mass shootings happen in the U.S. on a daily basis, but when they happen so close to home, it can be hard to process, especially for the younger population.

“I think these can be really scary conversations because it’s affecting us,” said Dr. Deidre Hussey, behavioral health clinical supervisor at the Baystate Family Advocacy Center in Springfield, MA.

Despite how hard it may be, Hussey said that having those conversations with your kids in the wake of tragedies like the mass shootings in Maine this week is crucial.

“We want to be honest and transparent because, at the end of the day, kids are even more connected than us with news or social media and they’re going to get information and they’re going to see scary things or they’re around other kids or adults, so exposure is going to happen,” Hussey added.

In Massachusetts, many of us travel across New England to Maine every summer for family vacations and the familiarity tied to this tragedy can be hard for kids and teens to process. Hussey told Western Mass News that it’s important to remind your kids about the good experiences, while also making sure they understand the bad.

“There are times when things are really scary and violent and there are times when things are really violent and sad and there are experiences where times and events that that is not the case. It’s not the norm. It happens, but not all the time,” Hussey explained.

As caregivers, it’s important to control the narrative and limit exposure in order to maintain their mental health and when having these conversations, first, find out what they understand, what their questions are, and what they are worried about.

“I think really validating the fear of going to a bowling alley or other areas where kids typically go,” Hussey noted.

Hussey added that it’s also important you’re talking to kids at their developmental level and Greg Vecchi, director of training for SafeDefend and retired chief of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit, suggested that parents and teachers have these conversations with kids as young as kindergarten

“You don’t have to scare them, but just let them know you know that we’re going to have drills. It’s kind of like we have tornado drills and we have fire drills and we have lockdown drills in case something bad happens,” Vecchi said.

Vecchi said that kids, as well as adults, should be taught how to use the ‘Escape, Evade, and Engage’ model if they ever find themselves in an active shooter situation.

“In the case of the bowling alley, the children should be aware that this may happen and they should be taught these safety precautions,” Vecchi added.

If your child or teens are experiencing any anxiety or fear about going to public places, Hussey suggested coming up with a safety plan.