How Do I Talk To Children About What Happened At The Capitol?

As I read multiple social media posts asking this question, my initial reaction was to gather various resources and share them with people. However, as I am learning to step back and question my own assumptions and responses, I decided to further ponder the question. My answer may surprise you.I will say, “don’t talk about it with children.” Before you jump all over me, let me explain my rationale. This is not a conversation that happens as a response to one moment in time. It is an opportunity to question our values, our purpose, and our intent. It is a chance to pause and reflect and not just jump in with simplistic answers such as  the one given by an educator I read on a social media article, “I tell children that these are adults having a naughty tantrum.”  This answer may be shaming to children who have tantrums as they learn to self-regulate. It is also too simplistic to help children to understand what happened and to engage in social justice. This is a conversation that must occur daily. It is a conversation about social justice, anti-racism, antisemitism, ableism, ageism, sexism, heterosexism and fairness. It is also more than a conversation. It is a commitment to change and a responsibility to create spaces where we can have daily courageous, transformative, and powerful conversations with children. 

Start by questioning your own values, who you are as an educator, and your responsibility to support social and transformative change. Are you open to letting go of what you believe is right or wrong and listen to the people who have been marginalized? There is no doubt that there are incredible social disparities that need to be questioned. As educators, we must take an anti-racist lens if we want to respond to children and help them gain democratic inquisitiveness. 

What are the values that guide your program? Are they based on building a space that encourages children to question and delve deeper into discovering their identity and the identity of others who look and act differently? Do the values in your program encourage educators to respond and intervene when inequities are seen?  Does your program look at their policies through a racial-literacy lens and not a race-neutral lens? In other words, are your policies designed to dismantle the systematic structures of oppression? Are you creating a community built on trust and where equity and inclusion guide all you do?

As you see, the simple question that many people are asking requires the asking of more questions. Yes, I can offer you some incredible resources that I have seen and found. I can provide you with some ideas on how to talk to children about this incident, but I hope that together we ponder how we will make changes so that these powerful conversations happen daily. I encourage us to reflect, listen, and learn from each other. I invite us to find the courage to speak up against inequities. It is only then that we won’t have to ask the question, “How do I talk to children about what happened in the Capitol” because children will already know that an inequity took place. They will be able to find answers to their questions because they are part of the moral ecosystem that has been created.