As the news of a mob of violent protesters storming the U.S. Capitol played out on Wednesday—on top of what’s already been a scary and overwhelming year—it’s normal for children to have fears and questions. And it’s normal for parents to be unsure about how to respond.
After all, finding a balance between helping kids understand the world and not causing too much anxiety can be difficult, says Gail Heyman, a professor of psychology at the University of California San Diego.
“Parents are often tempted to lie as a first response, because they don’t want their child to worry or that they shouldn’t be burdened with this, and that’s a bad approach,” she says. “It’s bad to overwhelm children with too much information, but you can tell them the truth in simple ways and use their questions to guide you on how much to share.”