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Jan. 8, 2021, 10:33 a.m. EST

‘Families across America watched in horror’: How to talk to your kids about the storming of the Capitol

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By Andrew Keshner

Rioters supporting President Donald Trump — and, some commentators say, incited by him — stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, forcing lawmakers to temporarily evacuate. and leave behind their duties certifying the presidential election of challenger Joe Biden.

The rioters breached the building after Trump’s fiery speech rehashing election fraud claims — unproven allegations turned back by multitudes of courts.  

Four people are dead , one shot by police.

It was an “unprecedented assault” on democracy, President-Elect Joe Biden said in a televised speech, with  pro-Trump supporters still assembled outside the Capitol building.

Now try explaining Wednesday’s chaotic events and their broader ramifications to your kids.

“Yesterday, families across America watched in horror the images that flashed across their television screens generated by the assault on one of our nation’s most hallowed grounds,” said  Daniel Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

“The herculean efforts being done by school district administrators, building leaders, teachers and parents to educate our young learners regarding what’s right and what’s wrong was indirectly challenged following the senseless act of vandalism at the Capitol building,” he said in a statement.  

Mary Alvord, a Rockville Centre, Md.-based psychologist, said it is critical that parents remain calm when talking about the day’s events because kids will pick up on unspoken cues and body language. Without that calmness, “we perpetuate fear, anxiety and outrage,” she said.

There are different messages for different age groups. For younger kids, up to 7 years of age, reassure your children that they are safe.  “For younger kids, maintain your routine, make sure their life goes on,” she added.

If home televisions and screens were on Wednesday, it would be good to turn them off Thursday and avoid the replays of the scenes, she said.

For older children, from fifth grade and up, you can ask how it made you feel and express that yourself too, said Eric Soto-Shed, a Harvard Graduate School of Education lecturer who trains social studies teachers. He’s  already talked to several student teachers Thursday morning on how they should approach the event.

Kids should first have time to think and talk about their emotions, he said. He taught New York City high schoolers after 9/11 and he remembered their anger, sadness and years later, some eventual indifference.

Parents and kids can talk about the facts of what transpired, he said. Being able to name for kids what happened is important, said Soto-Shed.

After that, they can take some time to think about some of broader personal takeaways. This could be a time to talk about things like the “assault on democracy versus the resilience of democracy,” he said. And there are other topics, like media literacy and the role of law enforcement.

“The question is how do you proceed with care? But, for the most part, you do want to proceed,” Soto-Shed said.

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