I know that many of you are trying to find your feet after last week… the way our current President and his followers have been behaving leaves us all shaken. Events like this – when a mob forces its way into Congress and terrorizes lawmakers because they don’t like the results of the election – are confusing and scary enough for us as adults to process. For children, they are even more difficult to understand.
We as Unitarian Universalists often participate in marches and protests as a part of our commitment to justice, to democracy, and to creating a peaceful and equitable world for all human beings. We are justifiably proud of our commitment to social justice and action, and it is something I don’t ever want to see us stop doing until we build that ideal world in which all are treated with respect, dignity, and equality. Many among our own congregation have participated in protests for Black Lives Matter, in peace vigils supporting our Muslim neighbors, in the March for Science, the Women’s Marches, in walks for peace and for hunger… our actions are important, they are heard, they make sure that everyone has a voice.
When something like the events of last week happen, it can be hard for children to discriminate between what we proudly participate in for justice, and the illegal action of breaking into the Houses of Congress. You can’t even point at violence as the line between protest and insurrection, because we have seen protests for noble causes turn violent for a variety of reasons, and even if we are not happy when violence occurs, sometimes we can understand it.
No, the difference isn’t in the violence but in the intent. The people who violated our national trust a week ago did so not because their rights and lives hung in the balance, but because they did not get their way. And they went to Washington with intent to do harm. It was an attempt to overturn the results of our election – the heart of American democracy. I, and every adult I talked to over the days following, felt shock and horror, and had to spend time processing both emotions and the facts behind the events.
And while I wish our children weren’t aware of what was going on in the world, that we could shield them from this and other similar news stories, the reality is that our children pay attention. They hear their parents talking, they hear their peers talking, and some of them may have access to other sources of information. Just as we, as adults, have needed to process emotions and events, so do our children.
And we must all continue to commit to action toward justice and equity for all human beings. This is one of our highest callings as Unitarian Universalists, and our children and youth are watching us and learning from us. We need to be there for them to help understand events and to reassure them that we will keep them safe. We need to model behavior that lifts up marginalized people and creates safe and wonderful space for them in our church and in our community. We need to continue to live our values, for our children.
Here are a few articles you may find helpful in talking to children and youth about the insurrection and about scary news in general.
- National Education Association/Talking to kids about the attack on the Capitol.
- Facing History/Responding to the insurrection at the US Capitol
- Education.com/10 Ways to talk to kids about events in the news
- Kidshealth.org/How to talk to your child about the news
Please feel free to contact me if you or your child would like to talk about anything.