‘Kids are going to remember this’: Experts give advice on how to talk with children about DC riots

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INDIANAPOLIS – The images of Wednesday’s chaos at the Capitol are hard to avoid and children are having to process what happened.

“We often avoid talking about difficult situations that we see because we worry it’s going to add stress for our kids,” explained Seth Kleiman a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist with Indiana Health Group. “But in actuality avoiding it is going to increase worry and anxiety. Situations like this can lead to kids perhaps over-catastrophizing.”

Kleiman encourages parents to be direct, understand how your child is processing the news and watch out for their behavior.

“Often times I’ll encourage parents to look to see if their kid is being more withdrawn or internalizing the feelings they’re having, kind of shutting down, and that’s a sign of more anxiety and depression. Or externalizing it and acting out in terms of seeming more irritable or frustrated,” said Kleiman.

“How we deal with it is important,” added Barbara Pierce, an Associate Professor of Social Work with Indiana University. “Validate those feelings for kids and to help them to feel safe.”

Pierce heard from families who are participating in e-learning following Wednesday’s actions in Washington D.C. She says, it’s important for parents and teachers to pay attention to what happened and what’s followed.

“The kids are making the association between what happened at the Capitol yesterday and their lockdown practices at school for shooter events. The kids are actually bringing this up,” said Pierce.

The conversations will differ based on age.  Pierce suggests for little kids to limit media, maintain a routine, and make time to play.  For the older kids, take note of an important lesson.

“Pointing out to the older kids what happened at the end of the day. At the end of the day, congress got back to work. That’s resilience,” said Pierce.

“I think it’s important for everybody, teachers, parents, everybody to realize this is impressionable for kids – kids are going to remember this,” Pierce added.

Click here to learn more about the resources available at Indiana Health Group.

The National Association of School Psychologists also provides many tips to managing emotional reactions following events, like what we saw in Washington D.C. Click here to access their resources.

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