The rioting at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, shook us all to the core. While we continue to grapple with our own feelings of anger, anxiety and sadness, we also need to continue our focus on helping children in the aftermath of violence.
The pervasiveness of the media means that many kids were exposed to disturbing images and language. In the immediate aftermath, there was plenty of advice about how to talk with and comfort your children. But psychologists say that it’s also important to monitor your children in the weeks and months following this tragedy.
The American Psychological Association reminds parents to watch for signs of anger, anxiety, fearfulness, grief and shock in their children. Signs that something is wrong may include trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating on schoolwork and significant changes in their appetite.
When reassuring your children in the wake of tragedy, let them know that while there are troubled people in the world who do things that hurt people, remind your children that many adults, including you, are looking out for their well-being and are dedicated to keeping them safe.
Encourage your children to talk to you about any feelings they may have. Give them the tools to express themselves through art or writing if they want. Explain to them that it’s helpful to talk to you about their feelings. If you find that your child’s anxiety and fear are interfering with his or her life, consult with your pediatrician or a child psychologist focused on trauma.
Take a deep breath, hug your children and remind yourself how incredibly important being a parent is today.
Below are some excellent resources for helping children cope with anxiety, fear or worry in the aftermath of violence.
- Promoting Adjustment and Helping Children Cope (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Help in Times of Crisis (National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement)
- Catastrophic Mass Violence Resources (National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
- How to Help Kids Cope After a Disaster (eHealthMD)