How to Talk to Children about the U.S. Capitol Riot
The events that unfolded at our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6 have left many of us hurting, confused, and anxious about the state of our country. For parents, knowing what to say to their children about the violence can be difficult. Sam McCage, Ph.D., a licensed professional counselor at Cook Children’s, spoke to WFAA and shares the following advice.
What should parents say if their children ask them about what happened at the Capitol?
First of all, stay calm. If you're not calm at the moment, then wait until you are and then ask them what they've seen, what they've heard, and do they have questions or concerns. Answer their questions, but don’t give them too much information.
The most important thing is to be a good listener, hear them, and try not to share too much of your own anxiety with them. If they say they're anxious, it's okay to say ‘I'm anxious too,’ but don't overplay that because you're their protector. Kids need to feel safe in their own homes and their own communities as much as they can.
Should parents bring this up to children, even if they don’t ask?
I think it depends on the age and maturity of the child. Some kids may hear about it, but really not have much of an understanding of our government and the Capitol. So with these kids, I would ask, ‘What did you hear? Do you have any questions about it?’ Just make sure you're answering their questions rather than bringing it all up yourself. But with some older teenagers, I would certainly bring it up and make it a point of conversation. Ask what their reaction is and see what questions they may have about it.
Should parents let their children watch the news?
I generally don't recommend for kids to watch the news, just because it reports so much of the violence and the negative things that happen. If I wanted them to hear more about a specific thing that happened, I would sit down and watch the news with them and be ready to answer any questions. I'd certainly rather they ask me questions than get information from other people and other sources.
How do you manage what children and teens see about events like this one on social media?
That is a tough one because there's so much out there that we don't really want to see. To me, it's almost like going into a library and looking at all those shelves and deciding ‘What do I want to pick out and read?’ Kids need to think about ‘What do I want to listen to and what do I want to pay attention to?’ I imagine their friends are going to be talking about it and as a parent, it's really important to be aware of what your kids are looking at and what they're seeing and hearing. When they're using social media at home, have them do it with the door open or at the kitchen table, somewhere you can walk by and see what they're doing and not be hidden.
Is there anything else you’d like parents to know?
I can't say strongly enough, watch what your children are looking at on social media. Talk to them about what they're looking at. If they quickly turn it off when you walk into the room, find out what they're looking at. It's so important to set limits on social media. Have them turn their devices into you when they're not supposed to be on them so you can have some control over that.