These tips and after school conversation starters will help you to get your kids to…
During times of shocking current events, sometimes it’s hard to find just the right words to explain them to kids. I’ve put together my top tips and trusted educational websites to help parents navigate these tricky conversations with kids.
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As someone who grew up outside DC and who proudly served in the West Wing of the White House (many years ago), the horrific attack on our Capitol and our Democracy left me shaken.
So, sit back—grab some coffee—this is a long post with a LOT of good resources that I hope will help you during this difficult time.
Reacting to the January 6 Attack on the Capitol
I sat glued to my television last Wednesday —I could not, for the life of me, peel myself away.
And since I had the TV on, I needed to address the events with my kids.
If you know me—you’ll know I’m very open and honest with my children—that’s just my parenting style. And maybe that’s why I try to balance everything with a good, magical dose of imagination.
But last week, we were NOT imagining a siege on our Capitol.
We were NOT imagining an attempted coup.
We were NOT imagining our democracy holding on a by a thread.
We were NOT imagining that our President incited a mob and encouraged them to take over the Capitol building.
And we are NOT imagining the warnings from the FBI that there is more violence on the way.
The National Education Association tells us that it is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT to have continued discussions as more events unfold and our children have more questions and fears.
But how exactly do we do this?
How to talk to kids about the attack on the Capitol
How did I begin the discussions about this utter upside-down horror-movie like state of events?
With honesty and facts and simplified lessons about the democratic process.
Don’t get me wrong—none of this was as easy as the sentence above makes it sound.
I used a lot of trusted resources to help guide me and I’ve included them below.
Please share this with other parents you know by selecting the SHARE buttons above. I’d also like to invite you to join the Conversation in my Our Sutton Place Facebook Community. No one should have to sit silent and alone during difficult times.
Tip #1: First—make sure children understand that they’re safe
We might take for granted the fact that we’re adults and know we’re safe, so it helps to remember that our little ones need that reminder.
Now’s the time to give those extra hugs and snuggles and just be present in the moment.
If your kids seem nervous or anxious about what’s going on, listen to their fears and VALIDATE those fears.
Do NOT dismiss those fears!
Sometimes, in an effort to protect our children, we make the mistake of dismissing fears but this can actually make things worse as it sends confusing messages to the brain. Their brain says “Well, I saw something scary but my mom says that’s not true. But I know I saw it.”
The result is more anxiety, self-doubt, and increased fear.
- VALIDATE THE FEAR
- Explain how we’re safe
- Remind them that everything will be ok.
How to Validate your Child’s Fears Role Play Example:
If your child says “I’m scared this will happen again and the police won’t be able to protect us.”
- Validate the fear: Yes, that does seem scary that it might happen again, and it could but…
- Explain why not to worry: our leaders and police and security agencies are better prepared now, so they can make sure everyone stays safe. They also have new plans to protect our leaders and our country.
- Remind them again they are safe: Everyone is working hard to protect our people, and Democracy and everything will be ok.
If you have older kids, it’s fine to acknowledge that yes—there was a massive security breakdown but remind them that now everyone is aware of it and are better prepared to protect our leaders.
Remember, it’s important to KEEP THINGS SIMPLE—don’t overburden them with too many facts or emotions (which can be much easier said than done).
Tip #2: Use Trusted Resources to help
During times when we as adults are having trouble grappling with big emotions and dramatic current events, it can be easier to use pre-made materials from trusted kid-focused, educational experts such as Scholastic News.
This takes away the burden of having to try to organize our thoughts while staying on-topic and not overly emotional.
Scholastic has a LOT of really great FACT-BASED resources that are FREE for parents/teachers and students. They’re categorized by age/grade, so it makes it easy to find the age appropriate material for your family.
I like to read the articles together with my daughters and then discuss the corresponding questions that follow.
My favorite part about this method….having answers to complicated questions right there in front of me in easily explainable kid-friendly language!
Total win during those stressful times when you just can’t find the right words!!!
Scholastic News Resources
Scholastic News Support for Student Page (this page has articles about the January 6 Attack separated by grade level).
Trouble at the US Capitol -article for 3rd graders (this is a great article and a great place to start discussions).
Chaos at the Capitol – article for 5th and 6th graders (this includes bonus info on how to spot false information and how misinformation spreads so quickly online.
Fun Facts about Scholastic
By the Way…did you know that Scholastic started as a national newspaper for high school students 100 years ago?
It’s true—so when it comes to kid-focused, fact-based news-they know what they’re doing.
Check out this great story from CBS Sunday Morning for more.
Tip #3: Let your children lead the conversation
Find out what they have questions about and start there.
Use educational resources for kids to help guide your discussions.
In addition to Scholastic News, we also use the educational website “BrainPop”( and BrainPop, Jr. ) Most schools use it so ask your kids or their teacher if they have an account.
Some videos are available without an account—like this one about Martin Luther King, Jr and Mahatma Ghandi and Peaceful Protests.
Brainpop also had lots of great resources on the branches of government, elections, and other change-makers.
In our house, we also spoke about respectful debates of ideas and positions like our Founding Fathers taught us and how leaders like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and John McCain always demonstrated that so well.
…This of course led to a respectful debate on sharing toys and is it necessary to share if someone got those toys for her birthday…
Tip #4: Limit Children’s News Intake
Watching the images unfold on TV and then replay and replay and replay, can be very disturbing and cause extra anxiety.
Limit children’s news intake and instead REDIRECT their attention to EMPOWERING books about historic or modern day activists and change makers or kid-friendly documentaries.
Still looking for more ideas?
Timeless tips for Explaining the News to our Kids from Common Sense Media
Keep family conversations going.
Check out these related posts:
And finally, a Presidential craft, coin rubbings for President’s Day!
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HI! I’m a Shana, self-proclaimed Media Mixologist, wife, and mom to two little girls. I love to mix up cocktails of crafts, recipes, wellness, family and business with just the right amount of sparkle to help you shine everyday. So, grab a glass, and let’s celebrate the cocktail of life!