On January 6, 11-year-old AJ Bloomfield scrolled the internet during a break in his virtual school day.
“I was seeing all sorts of stuff about how people breached the Capitol. And the security was going crazy. I thought it was just a big rumor,” said Bloomfield.
On a second break, Bloomfield and his father watched the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol unfold live on television.
“I saw all this really happening and I was confused,” he said. “I thought that everything in Washington, D.C. having to do with the government was pretty secure.”
Throughout the day, supporters of the then-president who were unwilling to concede his 2020 election defeat mounted a siege of the building in an attempt to block members of Congress from validating electoral college votes. Those votes would finalize President Joe Biden’s win.
For parents, helping young people make sense of the turmoil and aftermath of January 6 follows almost a full year of equally difficult conversations. The global pandemic, economic instability, a racial reckoning, and disconnection from teachers, friends, and loved ones have taken a toll on everyone.
“A lot of stuff scared me that I saw,” Bloomfield said.
The 5th grader described watching a video of a Black woman being attacked by people yelling obscenities and racial slurs.
“At one point they started fighting her,” he said. “It was one person against all of those other people. And later on when things got even more deep, I heard that somebody had gotten shot. I was afraid that the riot was gonna go U.S.-wide.”
AJ’s mother, Kimeka Bloomfield, is a social-emotional learning coordinator at Perea Preschool in North Memphis.
Her advice for other parents is to remember that it can take time for children to talk about feelings of confusion or frustration, so checking in often and encouraging open communication are important strategies.
She recognized the signs that her son had some hard questions about what he’d witnessed.
“We normally talk to him about events right away because AJ watches the news,” she said. “I try to follow up to see how he and his sisters are feeling days after or even months after something happens, just to make sure they’re feeling ok.”
Emmi Lovett, 13. (Submitted)
Emmi Lovett, age 13, said she felt fear swirling with many other emotions when she learned of the violence in DC.
“I started to see it on TikTok and Instagram, so I came downstairs to ask my mom what was going on,” she said. “I thought it was unfair because if that had been people of color it would have gone differently. There would have been more shooting and more deaths.”
“I’m glad that more people are realizing that now, but it just really hurts,” she continued.
As a trained counselor and former school social worker, Lovett’s mother, Mackaria Estes, said she tries to help her daughter manage her strong emotions in ways that reinforce positivity and hope for the future.
Lovett has stayed connected to other teens as a member of BRIDGES
, which is a Memphis nonprofit focused on leadership, volunteering, and civic engagement opportunities for young people.
Estes called the group a “safe space” for teens to ask questions and explore ways to make a difference in their community. She said it also encourages Lovett to have friends from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
“You want to raise your child to be aware of what’s going on in the world, but still protect their innocence,” she said. “I try to tell Emmi there are more good people in the world than bad. We want her to be aware and prepared but not hold hatred.”
“That’s something I live by and try to show Emmi. I don’t want to be in a world where I’m surrounded by only people who think like me,” she continued. “We can support each other.”
[This article is funded in part by ACE Awareness Foundation as part of a series on adverse childhood experiences in Memphis, including the people and organizations offering innovative solutions to protect and heal the city's youth.]