All if us are shocked and dismayed by what happened at the U.S. Capitol building this week. We know how hard it has been for us to make sense of the recent riots and subsequent events. Can you imagine how hard it is for your children? The Child Mind Institute just published a very timely article about how to help your children understand the riots at the capitol.

Important Points to Make Sense of the Riots

  • The article stresses the importance of working through your own feelings about the riots before talking to your kids. Kids look to us as role models and we want show self-care when confronted with a crisis.
  • Once you feel ready to talk, your children will benefit from an open, calm conversation. Modeling a peaceful, rational response and encouraging questions will help your kids feel less anxious and help your family process the news in a healthy way.
  • Check in with your kids about what they saw or overheard you say. Kids might fill in gaps of knowledge with their own, possibly scarier, misinformation. It is important that your kids have accurate information and that you do not shy away from honest discussions.
  • Validate kids’ feelings: “I totally understand why this feels scary. Let’s talk about it.”
  • If your kids have seen disturbing scenes of violence on the TV, reassure them that they are safe.
  • Emphasize the positive. Even though everyone was very worried, “Our representatives knew it was very important to continue doing their work, so they went back into the building to finish, even if it took all night! This shows how important elections are.”

Consider your child’s developmental age

  • Use age-appropriate language to answer kids’ questions. For younger kids, you need to use simple language and reassure them that they are safe.
  • When you talk to your school-age kids, give them a chance to tell you what they saw and what they think happened. Emphasize that the rioters were not effective and there are legal consequences for what they did.
  • Your teenagers may benefit from the opportunity to talk about their own rights and responsibilities in the world now. You could ask them if they can think of more appropriate ways to channel emotions so they can fight for what they believe in? What did they learn from the president’s actions and how could he have acted differently? Are there qualities all good leaders should (or should not) have? Can they do anything now to help our country? Could they get involved in community organizations, raise money, or volunteer for a cause they care about?


Some of the highlights from the timely Child Mind Institute’s article are outlined here, but I encourage you to read the entire piece and talk it over with your partner and your kids. Do not shy away from discussing such anxiety-provoking and consequential events in our country. You can be the source of correct information and a role model for self-care during this difficult time.

Sally Baird, PhD is a retired child psychologist and co-author of a new book titled Shrinking the Worry Monster, A Kids’ Guide for Saying Goodbye to Worries. See her website at If your child has worries about COVID-19, you may want to read Dr. Sally’s blog on helping kids who worry about the pandemic, school, illness, and so much more!

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