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Talking to Students about the January 6 Events
Posted 1/7/21

When news of frightening events floods our media and social media channels, families are often unsure how to respond to their children.  

 

First, psychologists agree that the most important thing is to give your kids a safe place -- and plenty of time -- to talk about their perceptions and their feelings. But before you even start, remember that in stressful times it is critical to reflect on your own level of stress and to acknowledge your own anxiety, anger or discomfort, too. Take care of yourself and talk to your child when you feel ready to engage calmly in a discussion.

 

Your children may come to you with questions. But if they don’t, you can proactively engage children with questions such as, “What are you seeing?”, “How are you feeling?”, and “What questions do you have?” And then respond with facts that are appropriate for their age level.

 

Some other ideas for prompts:

  • How would you describe what happened at the Capitol on January 6? Do you have any questions about it?

  • Are you having any reaction to these events?  

  • If you are feeling anxious, upset, angry or scared, what might help these feelings?

  • What’s your perspective on what’s happening in the aftermath? What would you like to see happen?

  • How do you think citizens should express themselves when they disagree with the government? (For older children: Do you understand what speech and activities the Constitution protects and what is not protected?)

  • Who do you see trying to help in this situation? What are they doing?

  • Is there something you’d like to do to help ? (E.g., write a letter to a representative, hold a fundraising event to support a group, write a letter to the newspaper?)

Emphasizing that your children are safe is important, but avoid whitewashing the truth or minimizing their feelings. E.g., “This was a big event and it’s normal to feel scared, but you are safe here now” is preferable to: “Don’t worry, it wasn’t a big deal.”

 

Definitions

This is also a good opportunity to talk about the differences between protests, riots, and insurrections. Here’s a quick guide:

  • What is a protest?
  • A protest is an action a person takes expressing their unhappiness or showing they disapprove of something.
  • What is a riot?
  • A riot is a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd.
  • What is an insurrection?
  • An insurrection is when people revolt against their government.

Please see the resources below for more tips.

 

General Resources about Talking to Children about Current Events

Specific Resources about January 6, 2021

 

NEA: “Talking to Kids about the Attack on the Capitol

CNN: "10 Tips for Talking to Kids about the Attack on the US Capitol"


(Special thanks to AUSD Intervention Lead Melissa Saunders for her help with this guide.)