How to talk to our youth after the attack on the US Capital

Photo by Dalton Caraway on Unsplash

Whether we have children at home, can empower and support parents during this time, or are educators; the events yesterday at the US Capital need to be talked about. I remember watching the Iran hostage crisis live on tv in grade school, when the US hostages were released to return home to the US. It was 1979 and I was 9 years old. The memory is engrained in me because our teacher kept saying, ‘this is history, pay attention.’ Even though I did not fully understand the politics, I knew there was conflict in a world that was not safe. This memory brings up emotion in me today.

Yesterday was unprecedented for the US. I followed a reporter’s tweets from inside the Capital. He told us he heard a police officer say, ‘shots fired.’ Offices were ransacked, our lawmaker’s lives were threatened, as well as our whole democracy. I felt as if this was an unreal movie on Netflix that I watched, waking up today to realize it was not a movie, but real. Gallows were erected outside the Capital with direct death threats to our Vice President and Speaker of the House. Although diverse in thought for certain, the lives of all of our lawmakers are to be respected and protected.

How do we speak to children and teens about the threat to democracy, insurrection against the US government, needed removal of our president for our own safety; while maintaining a respect for the diverse representation in our government? Our president incited this by encouraging his followers for weeks and even months after the election to demonstrate and fight the results of the election.

As a mental health professional with 25+ years in the field, I believe this is a narcissistic personality experiencing power by evoking such behavior from his followers. He did not address his followers, nor the nation to bring any correction; only watching on tv like the rest of us. Does Trump’s need for that sense of power, to feed his self esteem, overshadow what is in the best interest of our country? It looks like it!

How do we talk about such complex issues with our youth? We have to explain these concepts to them with respect to our democracy, need for checks and balances not only with our branches of government; but the parties representing the people. We can no longer vilify lawmakers, or the ‘other’ political side, expecting to have a stable democracy. This concept of needing diversity in our teams is shown among multiple research studies to bring innovation and benefit to bottom line earnings of organizations. Conflict is productive when healthy communication occurs. Why not government? Our leaders need to work with a collaborative model of leadership.

This is what our children and teens need to learn. They are not seeing this through example. The youth of our nation need to see this role modeled by us in our everyday conversations. How we behave towards all human beings is what they learn. They are listening to us, they are watching us, they are learning. Let’s teach them principles of respect, that great leadership is collaborative, doing what is in the best interest of the country; not the leader’s own political party or ego.

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