GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It can be hard to know where to start when it comes to talking to our children about the events at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Brittany Barber Garcia, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist with Spectrum Health, says it’s important to remember that kids pick up on our emotions.
“It’s really important that as parents and caregivers, as teachers, as trusted adults, it’s important that we stay calm first when addressing kids and teenagers about what happened,” she said
“I know there are a lot of emotions in many of us, but we have to remember that we are the grown-ups in the room, so to speak. Before starting any conversation with kids and teens, I think it’s really important to be aware of our own emotions and what we’re showing and to try to approach conversations in a calm manner as much as possible,” Barber Garcia added.
Barber Garcia suggests starting by asking children what they’ve already heard and seen and asking them their thoughts.
“I would certainly start by asking them ‘what questions do you have’ and then respond to those in a way that feels developmentally appropriate.”
Barber Garcia advises parents to provide clear and factual information and admit when you don’t know the answer to a question.
“As parents and caregivers, we feel like we always have to have the answers, and in these situations, we just may not.”
Parents and caregivers should be prepared to help children and teens deal with emotions, including fear, anxiety and being overwhelmed.
She points out that sometimes channeling those emotions into positive action or behavior can be helpful.
“For younger kids that may be drawing pictures for helpers and sending them to first responders. For older kids, it may be a helpful discussion about what are alternative ways we can respond in situations in which we feel something unjust or something that we’re not happy with has happened,” she said.