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Billings psychiatrist urges honest communication with kids about school shooting

SD2 adds police presence at schools
Police at Burlington
Posted at 5:28 PM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 21:31:04-04

BILLINGS — There was an extra police presence at schools across Billings Wednesday, a day after a shooting at a Texas elementary school left 19 children and two adults dead. The extra safety measure is something Superintendent Greg Upham hopes will continue through the end of the year, but he along with many others know there are bigger problems to fix.

"It’s almost surreal," Upham said after first learning about the shooting.

Tuesday's tragedy in Uvalde, Texas comes a week after Billings School District 2 had a gun threat of its own. Upham said he’s confident in the district’s procedures, but that won’t solve the issue.

"We need to bring the best minds in this country together, because it's not just one thing," Upham said. "It's not just access to guns. It's not just mental health by itself. The crux of this is what’s happening in the family, in the family structure. Something’s gone awry."

"I feel like we as adults are failing our children," added Dr. Eric Arzubi.

Arzubi is a child and adult psychiatrist with Frontier Psychiatry, based in Billings. But before Montana, he lived 30 minutes away from Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children were killed on Dec. 14, 2012, at a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"The cry for help in some way really grew louder as time went on," Arzubi said. "When all that noise fades and it’s more quiet, that’s when things can become more difficult, especially for the people in that community."

Eric Arzubi
Dr. Eric Arzubi urges parents to talk honestly to their kids about school shootings.

Right now, many parents are wondering what they should tell their kids about this latest tragedy, or even if they should. Arzubi says yes, no matter their age.

"Our kids will know very quickly if we’re not being honest or are trying to hide something," he said. "So in the interest of promoting trust, let's be honest, but there are some caveats.

"We don’t want to turn on CNN or Fox News all day long every day. Let's get a dose - find out what’s going on and move on."

Arzubi, a father of two, also says age-appropriate language is key, as well as tone.

"If something happens, a kid will often look to us to see how we respond to see how to respond," he said. "If we get anxious or upset, they’re more likely to do the same. So we need to be very aware or how we're reacting to things because how we react is how they're going to react."

It’s advice Upham is ready to listen to, and he hopes he’s not alone.

"Regardless if you’re Republican, Democrat, right, left, it doesn't matter," he said. "Get the best minds in the country to figure out what is causing this type of behavior."