Explaining this very scary and real event to kids
Yesterday, January 6th, 2021, will mark a day that will go down in history. The storming of the capitol was broadcast across television and social media nationwide in real time as rioters broke into the U.S. Capitol and threatened the safety of U.S. lawmakers.
Children and youth of all ages can be affected in the aftermath of a traumatic event. With access to social media, children are constantly being fed information through their screens, creating anxiety and worry about what's going to happen.
Below are some helpful tips on how to talk to your children in the aftermath of these events:
1. Limit exposure to media. This may be difficult to do given the extent of news coverage, but it's important to monitor your child's media exposure. Ask what they're seeing online and make sure they know the difference between truthful media coverage and exaggerated, biased claims that are false. Make sure you know what your child is watching on the television, even if the news is just playing in the background. Be careful with what you yourself are talking about in front of your kids as well.
2. Provide reassurance that they are safe. Validate their feelings of fear and allow them to express their emotions in reaction to the event. Many may be worried about their own safety, so it's important to reassure them that you are there to protect them and everything will be okay.
3. Talk openly and honestly. Assure them that this is a safe space to ask any questions they may have. You can turn this tragedy into a teaching moment for children. Keep the conversation going and allow your kid's questions to lead the direction. Also, encourage creative outlets for those who may feel uncomfortable verbalizing their feelings.
4. Keep explanations developmentally appropriate. While it's important to be open and honest, it's also important to keep the conversations about violence appropriate depending on your child's age.
- Early elementary children will need more reassurance of their safety rather than details about the attack itself. Remind them of their safety and assure them adults are in place to protect them. They will often depend on the adults around them to make them feel better and safe. Give them verbal support as well as physical comfort with cuddling.
- Upper elementary and early middle school children are naturally more inquisitive and vocal about their concerns. They may have issues distinguishing reality from fantasy, so provide them with the facts and how schools and communities are implementing safety measures to protect them.
- Adolescents and teenagers will require a more in-depth conversation. They likely have formed their own opinions on the matter and understand the gravity of the violence that has occurred. Make sure that they are receiving the correct information and have an open dialogue with them about what has happened.
5. Stick to a normal routine. While it may seem impossible to return to any sense of normalcy after yesterday's events, sticking to a familiar schedule will help your children process their emotions. Make sure their meal times, sleeping patterns, and exercise are maintained to promote physical and mental health.
This is a scary moment in America's history, and is bound to have a lasting impact on our children who have experienced the media exposure firsthand. If your child is feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, Acenda offers counseling and therapy services specifically for children and adolescents.
Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 x9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.