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How To Process A Scary Day For The Nation With Your Kids

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NOT live coverage from the U.S. Capitol, but this picture of two young boys watching this Pokemon video from 2001 fit today's mood. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
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Confusion, unrest, fear, uncertainty -- create your own word cloud of uncomfortable feelings generated by the insurrectionist siege on our nation's Capitol and then try and process them with your family.

It's a lot, so we reached out to L.A.-based therapist, artist and healer Thea Monyeé, and Westside Infant-Family Network clinical psychologist Wendy Sun, for some guidance.

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And we're listening. Tell us how you're processing your feelings by emailing the reporter at mdale@scpr.org and we'll update this post with what you share.

IF YOU HAVE YOUNG CHILDREN -- TURN OFF THE NEWS

"I can't think of an energetic, or spiritual or emotional plus to [watching the news] because we don't have a plan to give them after that," Monyeé says. If you get more stressed out with every tweet, your kids are going to notice.

If you want to stay informed yourself, here are a few options

  • Set aside specific time for news check-ins.
  • Ask a friend or family member to text only the most important updates.
  • If there are multiple adults in the house, take turns engaging with the news.

BUT THEY ALREADY HEARD/ SAW THE NEWS, NOW WHAT?

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Sun says use simple but honest language to explain what kids saw or heard. For example, video or photos of pro-Trump extremists breaking windows.

"State the fact like, 'yes, this person is really angry, and he really wants to get into the building,'" Sun said. "So he broke the window, but it's not OK to break the window."

And if they notice that you're angry or upset, take the same approach. For example: "I'm so angry right now. And you know, it's OK. It's because of this, I just saw someone getting hurt or because I saw someone being really rude."

Sun says invite kids to ask questions.

TALK ABOUT FEELINGS

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"Let's not assume that we know how [kids] feel. Let's not assume that we know what they need," Monyeé says.

Younger kids may not yet have the language to express their feelings. Here's a helpful list of words for emotions from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Instead of "afraid," take trembly or petrified for a test drive.

"We don't have to add on to it or shift or change it or make it more comfortable for ourselves. We can validate it and support it and be open to their possibilities as well as our own," Monyeé says.

It can be as simple as using a phrase like:

  • I hear you
  • That's an important point
  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me
  • That's an interesting perspective

Sun says if kids aren't particularly chatty, they might express their feelings while playing with toys. Caregivers can prompt the conversation with questions like "What would (insert toy name here) do if they're scared? Is (toy name here) wondering about what's happening right now?"
EDUCATION & OPEN-MINDEDNESS

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For adults and older kids, there are opportunities for growth right now.

Northridge mom Sonia Smith-Kang noticed her teenage daughter was already online as a mob engulfed the Capitol. She wanted to make sure the information she and her siblings read and watched was accurate.

"I think accurate information is empowering. I think it is also necessary for them to be better citizens," Smith-Kang says.

She turns to NPR by way of KPCC 89.3 FM and the Associated Press. Non-profit Common Sense Media has a round-up of news sources for kids all ages here.

Once you've had enough of current events, Monyeé suggests looking to history. A few places to start? The American and Haitian Revolutions.

"It's something we will not go backwards from," Monyeé says. "We are a new people after this."

As you read, listen or watch, here are some questions to consider:

  • What was the response from the government?
  • What happened afterwards?
  • What did rebuilding look like?

"I think if we remove the emotional piece of it, we could actually just look at these situations as informative," Monyeé says.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, JOY IS OK

Just like with airplane oxygen masks, parents need to take care of themselves before they can really care for their kids.

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Thea Monyeé is an artist, healer and licensed marriage and family therapist. (Courtesy Thea Monyeé)

"They have to be calm, and they have to be grounded in order to really address any questions or any type of feelings children may be having," Sun says.

If there's another adult in the house, take a break from the kids when you can. If you're the only caregiver, Sun says even a few minutes of semi-alone time while kids are occupied with playing in another room can help.

And Monyeé says,"Don't feel like you can't experience joy in these moments and don't feel guilty for it."

For her family, there's joy in Stevie Wonder's "Music of My Mind," which just arrived at their house on vinyl, or watching "The Wiz."

Maybe for your family, it's getting takeout, taking a walk, blowing bubbles or singing.

FOCUS ON SAFETY

Sun says adults should reinforce to the little ones in their life,that they are safe. Constant anxiety and fear can hinder kids' ability to grow and learn.

Mom Sonia Smith-Kang says it was something she brought up with her older kids, too.

"I just said, 'My job, first and foremost, is to keep you safe. And that is what I plan to do.'"

LET KIDS LEAD

You might notice children acting a little differently over the coming days and weeks. Nightmares are a possibility.

"It's to be expected, because it's a reaction to what the child has experienced," Sun said.

Maybe the next step in processing feelings as a family is drawing, painting, dancing, making a sign for the front yard or creating a freedom dream.

Be open to the possibilities!

"We definitely don't have all the answers or all the wisdom," Monyeé says. "I think their generation has been used to adapting to rapid change a little more quickly than we have and that wisdom is what we probably need right now."

You can hear more from Thea Monyeé on her podcast Shaping The Shift.

HERE'S WHAT WE'VE HEARD FROM PARENTS