The human brain is an amazing organ. By way of electrical impulses which cause the release of hormones, it basically controls how we move, think, and act. It also holds all of our memories. We tend to remember the major events that happen in our lives through episodic memory – our brains combine our emotions with what we see and hear and even many years later we can recall vivid details. I grew up listening to my parents and their friends talking about where they were when JFK was assassinated and I can recall the morning of 9/11/01 like it just happened.
Yesterday was one of those moments. I received a text from a colleague at 12:08 and turned on the news. I was confused to see an empty Senate chamber except for a rioter standing in front of the Vice President’s chair with his fist raised; just two hours earlier, that room was filled with our legislators and Vice President Pence was standing in that same spot. The footage quickly changed to masses of rioters outside of the Capitol pushing past blockades, breaking windows, and spewing hatred and lies. My confusion was quickly followed by complete and utter despair and disbelief.
How could this happen in our country? These acts were in opposition to the ideals set forth in our constitution and in complete disregard for the institutions that we hold dear. Now that the dust has settled, we are left to process these events.
I sent an email last night to our faculty and staff stressing the importance of self-care in these challenging times. The same is true for parents. You need to put on your oxygen mask first so that you can take care of your child. I suggest that you give yourself a break from the news and social media – everything will be repeated so there is no need to watch the continual stream of disturbing images. I encourage you to take the time to do something that brings you joy.
As your children process these events, they will have questions and concerns. While teachers will lead developmentally appropriate conversations in their classrooms, the conversations are likely to find their way into your homes. Below are some resources that might be helpful.
– The National Association of School Psychologists – talking to children about violence
– The American Psychological Association – how to talk to children about difficult news
– Teaching Tolerance – when bad things happen
– Commonsense Media – explaining the news to our kids
While part of me wishes that my episodic memory wasn’t so strong and that I could forget the events of yesterday, another part knows that we can learn from these challenges and emerge stronger. So, I choose to continue to have faith in humanity and in our country’s democratic process. I choose to focus my energy on supporting the efforts of our faculty on teaching the importance of ometz lev (courage), rachamim (compassion), and netzach (perseverance). Together, we will heal each other and the world.