Parents need time with peers to process Texas school massacre, experts say

Coping with the aftermath of the Texas elementary school massacre is especially challenging for parents with school-age children. Not only just they help their kids heal, but also manage their own emotions.

At Erckenbrack Park in Foster City, the tranquility as parents and children enjoy an early dismissal from Brewer Island Elementary School belies a maelstrom of emotions for parents.

"I’m quite scared. Because every day you don’t know what you’re going to run into," said Yong Lee, the mother of a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old.

Uvalde, Texas, is more than 1,600 miles from the Bay Area, but on this day, psychically and emotionally connected. Parents here, as there, telling their kids it’ll be alright, but all the while struggling with their own internal conversations.

"It’s sadness, it’s a little bit of anger that something like this constantly happens. it’s frustration that nothing seems to be done about it," said Doug Soga, the father of a 10-year-old.

Mental health professionals say national traumas such as the murder of 19 children, on top of other stressors, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and a shaky U.S. economy, can lead to a host of disorders and even deep depression.

"People are going to have that terrible fight-or-flight stress response. Very anxious. Many people will be very discombobulated by this. But somehow they’ve got put one foot in front of the other and get through their days and weeks," said Dr. Thomas Plante, a psychologist at Santa Clara University.

Added Jenisa Thompson, "It’s just been a whirlwind for parents. And so that sense of burnout and fatigue and overwhelm is present, it’s big."

Thompson is a marriage and family therapist who said parents need a place to express their feelings with peers.

She’s president of the Foster City Parents’ Club. It, and similar non-profits, allows a safe space for judgement-free venting. Thompson believes this will ultimately help parents shepherd their children, and themselves, through difficult times.

"These feelings are real. These are not going away anytime soon. So you need to be honest with yourself and your families and those around you, to get authentic support and authentic help," said Thompson.

Her sage advice comes with the knowledge the day after an incident, parents are embracing their seemingly safe and serene surroundings, until perhaps, the next shooting sends their world into emotional chaos.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay Bureau, in San Jose, CA. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram @jessegontv