How To Talk To Kids About The Riots At The U.S. Capitol : Capitol Insurrection Updates Many young people across the country are finding this moment extremely scary. Parents, caregivers and teachers can help them cope.
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How To Talk To Kids About The Riots At The U.S. Capitol

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How To Talk To Kids About The Riots At The U.S. Capitol

How To Talk To Kids About The Riots At The U.S. Capitol

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TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

How do you talk to children and teenagers about what happened last week at the U.S. Capitol? They might be following the news or just picking up on adults' anxiety. And as NPR's Anya Kamenetz reports, parents, caregivers and teachers can help.

ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: One day after the storming of the U.S. Capitol, Martin Urbach checked in on Zoom with his students at Harvest Collegiate High School in Manhattan.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTIN URBACH: Welcome, welcome, welcome, my dear loves. I'm not sure if people know, but yesterday was a pretty tricky day in our country, in our world. And I want to hear kind of how - what - you know, I would love to pick your brains and learn together.

KAMENETZ: Urbach's joining from his bedroom. Many of his ninth-graders are doing the same.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URBACH: How are you feeling right now based on the events that happened yesterday in D.C.?

KAMENETZ: Joel Arce pointed out that the police seemed to treat protesters of color very differently over the summer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOEL ARCE: When the Black Lives Matter protests were going on, they were complaining about all the protests and how - like, how they were crazy. But, like, now they're protesting but doing it, like, five times to 10 times worse. Like, they're breaking into the Capitol, breaking windows and everything.

KAMENETZ: He said that it seemed more like a riot.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOEL: A protest is supposed to be, like, calm and, like, you trying to prove a point. That's not proving point by breaking into the Capitol, you know? You're not really proving anything.

KAMENETZ: Urbach gave the students more vocabulary words, like sedition and coup.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URBACH: A coup is a sudden violent and illegal seizure of power from a government.

KAMENETZ: Amber Colon said she had tried to tune out what was happening.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AMBER COLON: I find the news kind of scary. But I do remember seeing a video yesterday about how this lady tried to storm it, and then the cops pepper sprayed her.

KAMENETZ: No doubt, people of all ages are finding this moment extremely scary. But experts say caring adults can do a lot to help young people cope. Urbach said his priority is that students feel like they're heard.

URBACH: I try to always make space for, like, asking questions rather than answering.

KAMENETZ: Melinda Macht-Greenberg agrees. She's a clinical, developmental and school psychologist on faculty at Tufts University. She says that parents should be honest with their kids if they themselves are struggling to process what is happening. That way, you can be...

MELINDA MACHT-GREENBERG: Modeling for kids how to be able to manage the questions, the worries, the anxiety as they're emerging...

KAMENETZ: Macht-Greenberg says, watch for changes in eating, bedtime problems, raw emotions or clinginess in kids. Take breaks from the news. And keep inviting them to talk, even if they don't seem to want to take in what's happening. That way, she says...

MACHT-GREENBERG: When they are ready, they know that you are going to be a present listener.

REENA PATEL: You, as a parent, know your child best. But first and foremost, make sure they feel safe and they feel protected.

KAMENETZ: Psychologist Reena Patel says her toolbox for calm with children and teens includes breathing exercises, visualizations and positive affirmations like, I can do this. She also encourages...

PATEL: Coming up with ways that we can teach children to compartmentalize some of their worries and stress and anxiety...

KAMENETZ: Like writing them down and putting them in a worry box - speaking of writing things down, Urbach's homework assignment that day was to find an image with a caption from social media that speaks to what the kids see happening.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URBACH: By tomorrow, I would love to see at least one meme, a meme that helps you make sense of what happened yesterday and a meme that helps people understand better kind of, like, the situation.

KAMENETZ: He's going to keep asking his students to find their own voice in interpreting the history they are living through.

Anya Kamenetz, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF KUPLA AND J'SAN'S "OUT OF TOWN")

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