This week, Donald J. Trump won the presidential election and secured his place as the 45th President of the United States of America. Some are struggling with disappointment, anxiety and fear, some are feeling joy, and others are feeling relief. No matter what side of the aisle you fall, most people are seeing conflict and vitriol in their environment. This can be a particularly difficult time for children. As parents, it is important to kids that we help them navigate the messages of conflict, fear, disappointment, and joy.
Make time to talk to your kids about these issues. Ask them about how they’re feeling and what they’re hearing. Allow them to express their emotions and validate that their feelings are okay, and that it is important to express your feelings.
At the same time, it is important to remind kids to be respectful of other children’s beliefs and values. It can be helpful to remind them that while they are feeling sad, others may be feeling happy, and if the results had been different, they may have been happy and others may have felt sad. It is also very important that they understand that even if we deeply disagree with someone’s values and opinions, we can do so in a manner that still upholds respect for all human beings. It is okay, and even helpful, if they can listen and talk with people with different points of view, as long as they do so with an open mind.
If they are feeling badly, fearful, disappointed, or discouraged, remind them that these issues are complex. Talk to them about the checks and balances that exist in government- and in people- and remind them of the strengths of our democracy. Inform them that after elections, people work together to unite and work hard for the people of America.
You can also remind them that every person- children included can make a difference! Their bad feelings can be clues as to what is important to them. Find out what they are upset about and help them take action by volunteering or supporting organizations in line with those causes. Taking action to express their values and make the world a better place will empower and uplift them in a way that simply expressing negative feelings against perceived opponents never will.
Finally, remember your kids are watching you and looking at you for how to respond. It is important that parents express their feelings, but make sure to do so in a way that doesn’t scare kids or make them more anxious. In addition, you should model healthy coping- make sure to attend to your emotions and take care of yourself.