As youth development professionals, we can play an important role in supporting young people when hard things are in the news. Unfortunately we find ourselves in such a moment yet again. You may find that the young people in your care have questions or are upset about the events at the Capitol Building. While we sometimes have the impulse to avoid talking about topics that are difficult or sensitive, doing so leaves youth to process these complex issues on their own and opens them up to false narratives and confusion. In this post, we will give some context to our current situation, and share resources that will help you frame these vital conversations.
What happened: While the US Senate and House of Representatives were in a joint session on January 6 to count the Electoral College votes in the 2020 Presidential election, a group protesting those votes became violent, breaking into the Capitol Building and causing several hours of chaos. Lockdown procedures ensured that the Vice-President, Senators, Representatives, and their staff members were safe. Once the area was cleared, Congress came back together and completed the count in the wee hours of the morning.
What comes next: We are still in the transition period. Government officials from both the current and next administrations have been preparing for the changeover, and on January 20, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States.
For more on the Presidential election process, this timeline lays out the process succinctly. For free web-based games youth can play that explain how it works and lesson plans you can use in conjunction, check out the iCivics.org Election Headquarters. For teens, find activities in the Youth for Change Badge that include how to identify credible information, why voting matters, and more, on MyFuture.net. If you want to explore the specifics of these events at the Capitol, this list of resources created for classroom educators is helpful, and includes contrasts to responses to the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year.
This is not the first period of civil unrest our youth have seen play out on the news or in their communities, and it will not be the last. Incidents of race-based injustice continue to occur, the current political divide shows no signs of ceasing, and we are still experiencing a pandemic that has killed a staggering number of people and has fundamentally changed our daily lives. The social-emotional skill of resiliency has never been more important. Resiliency is the ability to adapt and deal with daily challenges, even in the face of uncertainty. Much of what we do at Boys & Girls Clubs helps to build this skill, which will serve youth now and throughout the rest of their lives.
BGCA has resources and guidance that can help you frame these conversations and build the social-emotional skills like resiliency that youth need. Here are a few of them:
This post, written in response to the racial justice demonstrations in the summer of 2020, includes ways to initiate dialogue about community events with young people as well as a link to the How to Talk to Teens About Traumatic Events guide.
While this post was written in preparation for the Presidential election, the guidance on how to talk about political topics while staying non-partisan is appropriate here.
We’ve already touted the newly updated SMART Moves: Emotional Wellness program as one that you should seriously consider starting the year with in your Club’s programming, and we reiterate that again. These 10 sessions designed for youth in grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8 focus on building the social-emotional skills of self-regulation, impulse control, and stress management. Read how this program made a huge impact at the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley in this post. There is also an all-new Teen Expansion Pack to integrate concepts of identifying emotions and self-regulation into your teen center programming. It’s got the latest info on how COVID-19 is affecting teens, implementation tips, discussion activities, and more. Other recent Emotional Wellness resources that you will find helpful include the Emotional Check-Ins guide and the Emotional Wellness Summer Planning Guide.
One of the most vital takeaways from the events of January 6 is that despite the chaos and the fear, the Vice-President, Senators, and Representatives came back together and finished the task. They were steadfast in their commitment to democracy and the ideals set forth in the US Constitution and focused on their roles in the peaceful transition of power that has set the United States as a beacon of freedom and justice to the world. Nothing about what happened yesterday changed that. Similarly, we remain steadfast in our commitment to being supportive adults who equip youth with the tools they need to be healthy, happy, and thriving members of society. That’s been our mission since the very first Club in 1860, and will continue to be our mission for centuries to come.