US Capitol

Talking to Children About the US Capitol Chaos

A Boston Children's Hospital psychologist suggests parents watch or read all news first before deciding what is age-appropriate for their children to view

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The chaos Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., was difficult for many to process, but it may be even harder for children to understand what happened.

"For kids of all ages, it's really important to reassure them that they're safe," Boston Children's Hospital psychologist Dr. Erica Lee said on Thursday.

Lee said for very young children, it's important to be clear without sharing too many details.

"For little ones, saying something like, 'people were really angry about what happened with the election, and then they showed it by starting a fight, and that was wrong, and the police are working to make sure everyone is safe,'" Lee said.

The doctor said older children may have more questions, and it's important to work through how they're feeling and to make sure they're not being misinformed.

"Especially for older kids and teens, they get a lot of their information from social media, so now's probably also a good time to talk about what some appropriate limits would be," Lee suggested.

As a parent of teenagers, Irma Torres, of Sudbury, Massachusetts, said she watched the news with her kids.

"With everything that happened yesterday, I think you have to be really open with your kids," Torres said. "We're living in a crazy world these days, you have to open up their minds that there's good and evil out there."

Another Massachusetts mother said she is glad her two children are young enough to not understand what's really going on.

"I'm glad my kids are so small right now, so they don't know about the disturbing thing that was happening, but that was crazy," said Juan Vilorio of Marlborough.

Lee said kids take their cues not only from parents but from caregivers, including their teachers.

Trump supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday after a rally from the president, overwhelming police and sending Congress into lockdown. Sue O’Connell tries to explain what happened and what to expect next.

"I'm sure for teachers, too, they're all figuring out, 'how do we maybe make this into a teachable moment,'" Lee said. "Even just sort of saying, we're not going to ignore it, we're not going to pretend nothing happened, we're going to make space to say, 'this was really scary and how are people feeling?'"

Lee suggests parents may want to watch or read the news first before deciding what is age-appropriate for their children to watch, read or listen to.

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