Checking In with Ourselves and Our Children After What Happened at the U.S. Capitol

The riots inside of our nation’s capitol this week left me feeling a variety of emotions. Among those that I am currently able to identify include fear, anger, confusion, frustration, and grief.

I have learned that while no emotion is inherently good or bad, my emotions and the way I experience them can be contagious – and among the most susceptible for “catching” my emotions are my children.

“Even children who haven’t followed the news or are too young to understand it may absorb the stress of their parents through a phenomenon called “emotional contagion.” A child may feel stressed or distracted through observing and mimicking the behavior of an adult, but they may not realize the source of those emotions,” this according to EdWeek.

Because I have come to understand this about myself and my emotions, I have learned that it is particularly important for me to check in with myself and my children when I am experiencing emotions that may be uncomfortable to deal with.

This morning I was left wondering, “How can I care for myself and my children in a way that honors my emotions without denying the truth of the situation that activated these emotions inside of me?”

An image of the U.S. Capitol

After consulting a variety of resources and honoring my own personal experience, I have found the following to be helpful:

Become aware of the truth.

What is the truth about what happened? How do I know the story I’m exposing myself to is based in fact?

Accept the truth and the way it makes me feel.

How am I feeling right now? Why do I think I feel this way? Can I feel the emotion in my body? If so, how? Am I willing to accept the truth? Am I tempted to turn away from the truth or to look for alternative explanations of a situation? If so, why? How does accepting or denying the truth help me? How does it hurt me?

Take action.

What do I need to do to take care of myself right now? How can I take care of myself, without denying the situation? What do my children need from me right now? How are they feeling? What questions do they have? How can I support them while they experience uncomfortable feelings?

Sometimes this process is called using the 3 a’s—awareness, acceptance, action. I find these help me to both accept reality and take care of myself — both which I believe make me a better mother.

How are you processing the events that unfolded in Washington D.C.?

Kate is the mom to Jack (2006), Liz (2007), and Alice (2011) and an avid Cubs fan through marriage. She's an assistant professor of mathematics and STEM education at St. Ambrose University and also moonlights as a mathematics teacher at South East Junior High in Iowa City. Between soccer, running club, tumbling, and piano lessons she likes to cook, run, and do yoga. She's also a sucker for 5Ks with cool swag and awesome medals.


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