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Talking with Kids about Recent National Events

Updated: Jan 11, 2021

* edited to remove the "terrorist" language after reading this instagram post.I'm grateful for this expanse in my understanding and I offer apologies for any harm my previous language has caused.

Have you been talking with your kids about the white supremacist attack on the nation’s Capitol? It’s not easy, yet so important. This event, how we personally respond, and how the nation responds, will shape the rest of our children’s lives. I want to share how conversations have gone in our house and some tips that might support your family as you navigate this time.

I asked my kids (9 & 11) if they had heard what was happening and no, they had not. I explained what was happening (and would have shown footage, but it wasn’t the right time - later).

I connected this current event to recent events we have talked about such as Black Lives Matter protests. I connected this event to events of the past 5 centuries such as genocide, slavery, and the KKK. I brought in the connection to the attempted coups in Venezuela and Bolivia. My kids have a short attention span for this kind of talk, although they will certainly listen when it comes to these clearly important events, so I keep it brief and I respect when their attention goes elsewhere (a 10 min convo).

I didn’t feel like we got very far, so I brought it up again the next day. “Have you thought more about the white supremacist coup on the Capitol?” No. “Ok, well I wanted to share with you how I feel about it.” And we went on from there.

Because we have been talking about these kinds of topics since they were born they can fairly quickly integrate the information and are able to make surprising connections. If you are new to talking with your kids openly about white supremacy and scary events like these, stay with it. In a year or two you will start to notice that they have an increased ability to listen, to make connections, and even to teach you! Learn together.

Here are my tips for processing and talking about these recent events:

  1. Feel the feelings and then transform them. The breach on our nation’s Capitol brought up so many emotions. Feel the true feelings you are feeling, and share those feelings with your kids. Do what you need to do to process those emotions. Share your process with your children. These lessons about self-care are so crucial. Feelings of hate, revenge etc can be transformed into love and forgiveness when given care and time, but will only fester if allowed to go unprocessed and unchecked. Feelings of anger and rage can be harnessed to bring about the positive consciousness change that is needed, but also need to be given space and witness so they don’t begin to eat up our bodies and souls. Feelings of sadness, shock, fear, disgust, are also present - notice, breathe, let them move through your body so they can transform into presence, commitment, and love. When we do this for ourselves, we are also supporting our children to be true, to be witness, to be healed, to be the change. Move from fear to courage and love. The energy of fear corrodes our bodies and spirits. Do the things that will support you to transform fear to courage and love, which are emotions that can bring us to connection and life-affirming action.

  2. This coup was about systemic white supremacy. It is easy to get drawn into the faces of the angry white men who stormed the Capitol, to hate them, be mad at them, and tell stories about them. This is not about them, it is about a system that has upheld white supremacy. This is about a nation that chose a man for president who called these Proud Boys to storm the Capitol. This is about elected officials who have consistently backed this president’s white supremacist actions. This is about the filthy wealthy of this country and the world who have funded this president’s policies. This is about a police force who serve these blatant abuses of power and who did not stop these people from their public temper tantrum over not getting what they want, even while they will brutally go after people who are protesting for justice (police response to BLM protests, Standing Rock protests, etc). This is about a country that has consistently upheld the rights of the wealthy over justice, no matter the beautiful narrative that is beat into our minds. Talk with your kids about the system, about the problems with the system, about how that system needs to be changed, and then what we can do to change the system (more on this below).

  3. The US is getting a taste of its own medicine (karma?). This event was so visible, so egregious, and yet there are events happening like this all over the world, many orchestrated by the US. The US has funded and organized countless coups against democratic governments that don’t support US corporate interests. Both republican and democratic presidents have participated in this behavior. And most often the coups the US has participated in are extremely violent. Please be sure to put this coup in that context - our kids need to know that the US is and will continue to be lethal until it does some soul searching and system change.

  4. Take beautiful action. This is hard in my family, I have still not been able to get traction with my kids to take action that does not require too much painful coercion on my part (I do not think we should coerce our children in this way). I hope you are a family that takes action! I know many who do! Some of the beautiful actions you can take are: pray together for love/justice/peace/transformation, share money and resources with the folks of color in your circles and nationally who continually stand up to white supremacy, write a letter to the families of those who were killed at the Capitol, call your congress folk about impeaching the president and expelling all those from positions of power who supported this breach of justice, join with the groups in your area who are and who have been showing up for justice.

  5. Believe that anything is possible. Envision with your kids what a just world looks like.

AND it doesn’t need to be all of that! Start somewhere. Start simple, with what feels doable to you. You got this.

So so good to be with you in this. We are raising a new generation of changemakers. And we are doing it together.

~ Angela, white class-privileged mother to two white kids

ps. Bonus sharing for anyone who is still reading. I had this experience two days ago and I chose to share it with my kids. I hope it inspires you.

I woke up early the morning of Jan 6th and was praying by the fire when I had this very vivid image of myself standing in front of a line of white supremacist protestors. I was reaching out my hands in love and looking people right in their eyes. I had no fear, as in zero fear. There was no resolution, yet I could feel the power of love in me and around me and I could feel the absence of fear. Just hours later I looked at the news and saw what was happening in DC. I returned to the vision that morning, the spirit of prayer, the power of love, the absence of fear. I prayed for all those at the Capitol - the terrorists, the police, the Congress folk, interns, janitors, all those in the building and in the vicinity. I prayed for awakening, for the thawing of hearts. I prayed for love to saturate all and for us to see each other as valuable, so that we are compelled to take care of each other.

Today might not be the day, but it will be soon.

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