How to talk to your kids about the insurrection on Capitol Hill

SPOKANE, Wash.– The insurrection that both baffled and frightened people across the globe will take time to understand as an adult. Explaining the situation to children won’t be simple either.

Local mother Christine Varela didn’t shy away from the tough conversation with her daughter Lola. The 11-year-old girl had seen snippets of the news and picked up on her mother’s feelings. So, before bed Wednesday, Varela took time to talk with her daughter.

“I just sat with her and I said I want to talk with you about what happened today because it’s really important,” Varela said.

Similar conversations played out across the globe on Wednesday as disturbing images of Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol filled television screens and social media feeds.

Dr. Leslie Blevins is a licensed psychologist and founder of Spokane’s Enilda Clinic. She explained that parents have important rolls during times like these.

“[Kids] just want to process it the same way that we do. So, oftentimes a kid might bring it up and what they’re looking for is their parent’s reaction so they can start to understand how they should feel about it,” Dr. Blevins said.

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) offers a host of resources for parents on the topic of coping with a crisis. Among the recommendations for helping children are:

  • Let children know there are people helping keep the community safe. It’s a good opportunity to show children that when something scary happens, there are people to help.
  • Limit exposure to television and social media content about the disaster; repeated exposure to frightening or intense images increase distress.
  • Maintain routines at home and school as much as possible
  • Spend family time together; this can increase feelings of safety and provide helpful opportunities to talk and share.
  • Ensure they have regular meals and get good sleep every night.
  • Use words and concepts children can understand. Gear your explanations to the child’s age and understanding.
  • Make time and encourage kids to ask questions. Don’t force children to talk about things unless and until they’re ready.
  • Give children honest answers and information. Children will usually learn if you’re making things up, which can diminish their trust in you.
  • Be prepared to repeat information and explanations several times. Some information may be hard to accept or understand. Asking the same question over and over may also be a way for a child to ask for reassurance.
  • Acknowledge and validate the child’s thoughts, feelings and reactions. Let them know that you think their questions and concerns are important and appropriate.

Blevins said it is not necessarily a bad thing if your child is asking about what happened Wednesday.

“I just want to caution parents and teachers out there that just because your child is aware and processing it doesn’t mean it is a detrimental thing,” Blevins said. “It means they are human and they care about the world. They want to understand the world they live in.”

For Varela, it took finding some calm in the chaos to turn the terror into a teachable moment.

“I think there’s a really important lesson there in that democracy isn’t just something we talk about. It’s something we have to choose to participate in, in our words, in our actions, in our laws,” Varela said.

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