The recent riots at our Nation’s Capitol have shaken us and brought up many emotions. As we process these events ourselves, it can be difficult to find the words to help our children process them. Here are some tips for talking with kids about the riots or any other traumatic event.

1) Limit media exposure. Monitor what kids are viewing online; be mindful of conversations you have with other adults in the presence of children.

2) Maintain a “normal routine.” This is especially challenging right now. However, keeping a regular schedule of sleeping, eating, and moving our bodies every day is reassuring and promotes physical health.

3) Reassure children that they are safe. Remind them that their homes are safe, adults are there to protect them, and God is always with them. Give concrete examples of safety if they are concerned (i.e. the doors to the house are locked; an adult is always with you, etc.

4) Create time to listen and be available.

  • Let their questions guide the amount of information you share.
  • Be patient, watch for clues that they want to talk (hovering around you while you’re doing the dishes, etc.).
  • Validate their feelings – allow them to talk about their feelings, then help put them in perspective and express them appropriately.
  • Ask neutral, curious questions.

Younger children:

  • What happened?
  • What do you think about it?
  • What questions do you have about it?
  • Keep it brief and simple, and balance with reassurances of safety.

Older children:

  • How did you feel when you heard about it? (If it’s hard to express in words, try emojis!) 
  • What did you notice? What did you wonder?
  • What do you think it means for us right now?
  • Older children will be more vocal in asking questions about their safety and what is being done to keep them safe. Discuss efforts by community leaders to keep them safe. Again, give concrete examples of safety.

Read this article from the Child Mind Institute for more guidance.

6) Find a helpful outlet

  • Imaginative play (esp. young children)
  • Art/sensory project (drawing/coloring, playdough, painting) 
  • Music (listening or creating)
  • Movement (dancing, martial arts, jumping on a trampoline)
  • Nature (walking barefoot in the grass/sand, hiking, climbing a tree.

7) Open the Bible

One of my favorite places to turn during difficult times is the book of Psalms. They are full of honest prayers to God. Some sing with joy, while others lament the brokenness of the world and even question God’s presence. They remind us that nothing we can say (or think or feel) is too big for God to handle. We can turn to God no matter what. Together, choose a memory verse. Write it down and put it up somewhere visible in the house (bathroom mirror, refrigerator, etc.) Here are two options to get started:

  • Psalm 46. Memory verse option: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (verse 1).
  • Psalm 13, for older children and youth – and adults! Memory verse option: “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (verse 5).

8) Pray together

God does not expect or need long, eloquent prayers; every honest prayer is a good prayer! Model open conversation with God in your prayers and encourage children to participate. 

  • If you feel more comfortable with a pre-written prayer, check the “Prayers for National Life” section in the Book of Common Prayer (pages 820 -823). I would recommend prayer 22, For Sound Government.

St. Michael’s is praying for the children of the parish and all those guiding them through these challenging times! “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]