In the wake of the election, my feeds are filled with advice on how to talk to kids about it.
All of it reads as though the giant meteor won.
The election of Donald Trump—as shocking and upsetting as it may be—is neither a natural disaster nor a large-scale terrorist attack. Treating it that way can cause serious problems.
Here’s how to help your kids handle the election:
Manage your own emotions.
Given the unique nature of this election cycle, you may feel something overwhelming: sadness, disgust, perhaps even joy or relief. If your feelings are overwhelming to you, consider not expressing them in front of your kids or in any media to which they might have access.
Allow yourself to feel difficult things, but seek other ways to manage them until they are under better control.
Model healthy coping.
Feelings cannot be wrong or right, but what we do with them can be healthy or unhealthy.
Before saying things or posting your thoughts and feelings, ask yourself, “Would I want to hear my kid say this?” If not, reconsider saying or posting it.
This goes for joy as much as grief. As Rebecca Sachs, Ph.D., ABPP, a board-certified behavioral and cognitive psychologist wrote to me on Facebook, “[Modeling is also important] for those elated by the results. Teach your kids the difference between celebrating and gloating.”
Let them guide you.
Kids are not as intensely aware of the election results and their meaning as adults are. Some kids may barely even register that anything is different.
If your kid doesn’t bring up the election, leave it be. They have enough on their plate already.
Some older adolescents may have thoughts or feelings that shock or appall you. Respect those differences, as difficult as that may be.
According to psychologist and parenting expert Dr. Leah Klungness, “Knowledge is a powerful antidote to irrational fear.” Most people got their news from Facebook and Twitter this election cycle—unreliable sources at best. In addition, the advent of social media allowed us to become intimately and intensely involved in the process.
Those forces have distorted the truth, making inherently faulty perceptions seem more like facts. Things are likely not as awful or horrible/great or wonderful as they seem.
Feelings do not equal truth.
Turn difficult conversations into teachable moments.
Consider not involving kids in discussions about the strange nature of the campaign and your fear or joy. Dr. Klungess offers this alternative:
“This is an ideal time to teach your school-aged kids more about how our government works. Discuss the Constitution, branches of government and the all-important checks and balances. Stress that disagreements and compromises are integral parts of American history. Just as families may argue and disagree, make the point that Americans do not always see things the same way. And that's OK.”
Secure a better future for our kids: Behave well and make sure they see you doing it.