Many of us woke up this morning still processing the insurrection that took place in our nation’s capitol yesterday. It’s difficult to make sense of the confusing, frightening scenes or imagine explaining the situation to our children. What is important to remember and to impress upon our kids is that the brave people who are helping will eventually bring order and peace. We can also assure children that the majority of Americans are joining together to support justice and democracy and that the dangerous and unlawful people we saw in the nation’s capitol yesterday will not be successful in hurting our country.
There is a lot to unpack in understanding how something like this could happen. Talking about this with children can feel like opening Pandora’s box. But, not talking about it is a missed opportunity to talk about racism, white supremacy, oppression and disenfranchisement, which has led to this reckoning. As we all contend with our own feelings, we will be uncomfortable, and it’s okay to sit in our discomfort over what this nation has allowed to happen. Talking about this with children, in a reassuring and developmentally appropriate way, can be yet another means to help our children become even better human beings than we are.
Advice we shared with teachers:
Preschool and kindergarten students may not have heard much about the situation and would benefit most from consistent routines and the understanding that their family members may be more stressed right now, leading to potentially some different or challenging behavior. If children do bring up the events, correct any misinformation and reassure them that this happened far away and that they are safe.
1st grade and up (but for sure 2nd and up) kids may have more knowledge about what happened. We encouraged teachers to ask at Morning Meeting, "What have you heard about the events that happened yesterday?" Don't go far beyond what they already know, and model a calm and reassuring tone.
Advice for parents and teachers:
Young children, up to age 6, need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurance that their school and homes are safe and that adults are there to protect them. If they’re afraid about their safety at school, give simple examples of school safety like reminding them about doors/gates being locked, teachers always with them on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day.
Older children may probe with deeper questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done to keep them safe. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Talk about how school and community leaders make schools and communities safe.
To help extend the conversation, here are a few resources that you may find useful.
- How to process a scary day in our nation with your kids
- Talking to kids about school safety
- How to talk to your kids about the chaos at the capitol
- Insurrection slides, by Mollie Auerbach
- Leveled resources from Scholastic: Grade 3, Grade 4, Grades 5-6, Grades 6-8, Grades 9 and up
Adapted from resources shared by:
The Child Mind Institute
The National Education Association
Columbia University Teachers College & Lucy Calkins