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How to talk to your kids about domestic terrorism



They know something’s up, so don't ignore it

How to talk to your kids about domestic terrorism


All parents I know have wrestled with exactly how and when to shield children from emotional harm. 

You forbid certain games or shows; you turn the TV off when something inappropriate happens; you stop talking to your spouse about something “adult” when the kids are afoot. And yet there are times when we can’t, and shouldn’t, do those things. We need to explain something like the historic January 6th domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol Building. Writing for Fatherly, editor Murphy Moroney and parenting expert and educational psychologist Reena B. Patel offer some helpful insight into constructive ways to go about this.

The attack in response to Trump losing a second term is too critical to ignore, though of course the magnitude of it can be intimidating. Moroney writes: “As an act of domestic terrorism that was incited by a sitting President, speaking with children about what happened is important. Although parents might be hesitant to bring up the insurrection with young children, preschool-aged kids can digest a basic understanding of what happened, particularly if they saw images or video footage on TV.”

Three particular factors are crucial to helping your kids process the events: a safe space, asking questions, and being honest while also being mindful: “When it comes to discussing these events,” Moroney writes, “be sure to use direct language and avoid sugar-coating the event with young children.”

READ MORE: Answering our kid’s questions about violence in the world

Dr. Patel says: “State the facts: A group of individuals broke the law and demonstrated actions that looked scary and are wrong to make a point. They used hate by destroying the government and the people’s property. Let [children] know there are rules in our society and no one, not even [President Trump], can break the rules. That is why we have the Constitution.”

Don’t shy away from the violence, Dr. Patel writes: “Violence is a form of hate and even words can express hate,” she advises you to say. “What happened at the Capitol building was wrong and there are always other ways to get your point across."

Especially as the rioters call themselves “patriots,” talk about patriotism, and give examples of what it looks like, including:

  • Saying the Pledge of Allegiance and thinking about what the words stand for

  • Discussing what the stars and stripes on the flag mean

  • Honoring veterans through making cards or raising money

  • Discussing the principles of the Constitution

  • Teaching kids about the voting process

  • Explaining what a truly peaceful protest looks like

The horrific assault on democracy, and a sacred building and institution, can become a teaching moment. Not necessarily a pleasant one, but an important one.



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