Helping Children Understand the Riots at the Capitol
In the program I teach called Protecting You, Protecting Me (for children in grades K-5), one of the topics I discuss with students is the reasons for rules and laws. They learn that rules and laws are in place to protect themselves and others (i.e. wearing a helmet to protect the brain), show respect toward others (i.e. being polite), and to show order (i.e. not cutting others while in line at a store). Topics in the program also include children learning the value of stopping and thinking things through when making an important choice or decision, the importance of discussing difficult subjects with trusted grown-ups in their lives, asking questions to protect themselves, and strategies to use for taming their uncomfortable emotions such as anger. While the focus of these topics introduced in PYPM is to prevent underage alcohol consumption (i.e. teaching children the reason for the law that it’s illegal for anyone under age 21 to purchase or consume alcohol is to protect children and teenagers), they are purposeful and helpful for children in other situations also. In the wake of what happened at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, along with the relevant topics mentioned above that PYPM provides, I decided to write this blog to provide information and resources on how to discuss the riot at the Capitol with children.
In the article, How to talk to your kids about the chaos at the Capitol suggestions for parents include being truthful about the situation while keeping it simple in their explanation to children, encouraging them to ask questions, and reassuring children they are safe. It is also beneficial for parents to express any fear or anxiety they may have to help normalize and validate their child’s feelings toward the riot. Meeting children where they are by asking them what they have heard and what they know are mentioned in the article as ways to get the conversation started.
Children may have questions regarding the actions of the people who chose to mob the Capitol and wonder why these people did not follow the rules. Explaining to them that sometimes when people do not feel in control of things, they can experience such an enormity of emotions that their behavior becomes unmanageable. It is also suggested for parents to point out the fact that there are people keeping others safe in the situation. The article mentioned the importance of grownups having coping strategies in place to handle the anxiety the news can create, and how beneficial it is to model these strategies in front of their children. Lastly, parents should not expect to have just one conversation with their children about the riot. Multiple discussions may be needed, seeing that the riot will continue to be shown in the news coverage and more tense moments may occur with the inauguration just days away.
For information on how to talk to children about the riot at the Capitol based on their specific age group (younger kids, school-aged kids, and teenagers), please click here