(WSYM) — Scared, stressed, uncertain about the future - many adults are feeling these things with the country divided and our nation's capital under attack.
How do we talk to our kids about what is happening when we are still sorting through it ourselves. What age is appropriate to have these discussions?
Dr. Brooke Weingarden is a Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at the Birmingham Maple Clinic, she says it’s important to talk to your children no matter their age, but the content of that conversation will vary greatly depending on their age, personality, and previous life experiences.
If your child is school-aged or interacts with other children or adults, there’s a good chance he or she knows more about what happened in D.C. that you realize.
Dr. Weingarden says especially with a younger child, you don’t want to overshare. Also, don’t assume what your child knows or doesn’t know. It’s best to just ask.
“Is there something that you learned at school that you’d like to talk about? Or, did you hear about anything that happened yesterday? What are your thoughts? What do you know,” says Dr. Weingarden.
Take the lead of your child. They may be reacting or interpreting something differently than you expect, especially young children.
“Their understanding and concerns might be completely not what you would think they were. It could be that they saw people outside with no coats on or somebody was being mean. It’s a very different understanding than a teenager,” says Dr. Weingarden.
As a teacher, Shyam Thakker works with teens every day in Redford schools. He specializes in helping students cope with trauma.
“They need to understand that they are in a safe place and that the people that care about them, are also safe,” says Thakker.
He also says asking open-ended questions is best. Then, just listen. Let teens know it’s okay to express their thoughts and feelings. Also, let them know that things will get better.
“You will never see a rainbow without going through a storm, in order to see a rainbow, there has to be a storm,” says Thakker.
For kids of all ages that don’t respond to those open-ended questions, Dr. Weingarden says you can gently lead the way.
“You may not have noticed, but something happened yesterday that was pretty upsetting to me and it was pretty upsetting to a lot of people and I want you to know that it’s okay to talk about it,” says Dr. Weingarden, “and just sort of leave that there.”
Opening the door for conversation and letting the kids in your life know it’s okay to have feelings about what is happening in our society is more important than telling them how to feel to what to think. She says it is important to point out that there were laws that were broken and bad things that happened.
Be honest if they have questions, but be careful not to overshare cautions, Dr. Weingarden, as every kid will process information differently.
Point out the positive in the midst of it all.
“Something scary happened, but there is always something we can learn from it and that’s an area to focus on,” says Dr. Weingarden.