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An Elementary Schooler Told This Child Psychologist Not To Worry About School Shootings, And The Reason Why Is Gut-Wrenching

"I just got done with a session with an elementary schooler who asked me if when I saw the news yesterday, I was sad like her mommy or if I was scared."

Dr. Lindsey Cooley is a 30-year-old child psychologist in Chicago, and this week, they shared an emotional video that's gone viral on TikTok talking about something an elementary school-aged child said to them about the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Dr. Lindsey Cooley

In the video, she says, "I just got done with a session with an elementary schooler who asked me if when I saw the news yesterday, I was sad like her mommy or if I was scared. Now, I don't lie to my kids. Those of you who've followed me for a long time know that. So I said, 'Yeah, I was very sad and I'm very scared for you guys because I want to make sure you're all safe because I care about you. And I want to make sure you and your friends and every child is safe. That's why I do what I do. Because I care about you guys.'"

Lindsey with her hands on her head and on the verge of tears as she relays the story
@drcoolbeanz_psyd / Via tiktok.com

"And this elementary schooler looks me dead in the eye and says, 'You don't need to worry.' I said, 'Oh, we're gonna worry because we care about you.' She goes, 'No, no, we practice it. So when it happens, we know what to do so we don't get hurt.' When it happens."

@drcoolbeanz_psyd / Via tiktok.com

"And I'm trying to figure out at what point in time this became so normalized that our kids are just saying 'when it happens' instead of 'if it happens' or 'just in case.' No, they're saying 'when' and that is so fucked up."

@drcoolbeanz_psyd / Via tiktok.com

And in the comments, parents, teachers, students, and others shared their own experiences with armed intruder drills and surviving school shootings.

One person wrote, "I’m a teacher and I cry every time we practice. And I cry every time my own kids tell me about their practice. Why are we allowing this still?"

Another commenter said, "I am old enough to remember my first lockdown drill. My students have never known school without them. It’s heartbreaking and terrifying."

One parent shared, "I’ll always remember when my 4-year-old told me her spot for the drill 'so when it happens you can come find me,' and if that isn’t the hardest thing."

And a student wrote, "I wasn’t born when Columbine happened. I've been doing drills for it since kindergarten, and yeah, it’s always been 'when' not 'if.' I was class of '21."

Dr. Cooley told BuzzFeed, "I don’t lose my composure as a therapist easily, but hearing this young child not only tell me that they’d be fine when such a tragedy occurs but to basically reassure me, the adult, that I have nothing to worry about, it really shook me. The conversation quickly moved on, as it does with young kids, but after I walked them back to their mother, I sat in my office and I cried for a minute. It absolutely breaks my heart that this is the world our kids live in."

A memorial with flowers outside of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas
Brandon Bell / Getty Images

"I made the video because I felt that it was important to share this brief conversation with people who might not have the opportunity to speak with kids about these horrific events. We hear the politicians, we hear the news broadcasters, the late-night talk show hosts, but what about the kids who are living this grim reality every day? Why aren’t we listening to them? It should be absolutely wild to all adults that the youngest members of our society are ready to have their lives threatened in their classrooms, but it continues to be ignored."

A memorial with flowers and balloons hanging on the Sandy Hook School sign
Hartford Courant / TNS

"For the majority of my graduate training, I worked in schools. I’ve been in the classrooms with kids of all ages during drills and real lockdowns. The environment in those classrooms during those times isn’t something easily explained. I don’t wish that experience on anyone — it’s terrifying, heartbreaking, and rage-inducing all at once. But sometimes, I wonder if the adults in this country had to experience that feeling, if we’d be where we are today. It’s my hope that by sharing this small snippet of a conversation, maybe someone’s view will shift and we’ll be a little closer to achieving a solution."

A memorial at Columbine High School in 1999
Sulfiati Magnuson / Getty Images

They also wanted to send a clear message that things need to change. "I wish I had pretty therapist words that could help people feel better during times like these. But I don’t. Not really. I can’t promise there’s some light at the end of the tunnel or that we just need to make it through one more day and we’ll be fine, because it’s not true. Not right now, at least. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in order for us to get there, and I’m not sure when our policy makers are going to catch up with the vast majority of their citizens."

students protesting at the march for our lives with a sign that says I don't feel safe in school
Chicago Tribune / TNS

In the meantime, she urges people to find comfort in connection and share how we're feeling. "What I can say is, remember that none of us are alone in how we’re feeling right now. As humans, we are wired for connection. During these times, we must remember our humanity and stay connected with those around us. Lean on each other, give support when you can, and seek it out when you need to. We are not weak for admitting that we are tired or that we are scared, and at the end of the day, we are all stronger together."

women hugging and weeping at a vigil following the Uvalde shooting
Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images

"I urge everyone to take time for their own self-care. Turn off the news, it will be there when you get back. Pick up a hobby you’ve been longing to get back to. Watch some old reruns. Hug your kids. Tell your friends you love them. Whatever helps you feel better, as long as it isn’t harming you or others, go for it. These times are stressful, don’t feel bad for finding ways to make it easier."

Follow Dr. Cooley on TikTok and Instagram.

The Senate has currently stalled two gun control bills that aim to make background checks for owning firearms more extensive. Please take action on gun violence, call your senator! Here are 11 other ways you can take action to stop gun violence in the US.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.