Are you concerned about what your children are hearing and seeing in the election talk?
In light of the election results, I cannot ignore the pressing need to address what is already happening for our children. Regardless of preference in the presidential race, we have to confront what our children are hearing and learning from the current political climate.
One mother wrote that her 7 yo daughter came home from school saying that she heard that the man running for president said that he had touched a woman’s private parts. Another mother reported that when her son’s class held their own election, one of the girls who voted for Clinton said to a boy who voted for Trump, “I hate you.” Other reports are coming in of divisions and anger between children who just days before were normal schoolmates. Thousands of children now know the meaning of the slang P-word. The media has put it in our ears and things like that always trickle down to school children.
A child’s influence lies within the family. Children hear us talking, arguing, calling names, blaming. This has been the most divisive campaign in recent history with so much hatred on both sides, and we must take responsibility for the messages our children are hearing.
Whether or not you supported Trump, and whether or not he will be a good president, he has said and done things that you work hard to insure your children will never say and do. So how do you talk to your children about your beliefs and values in the context of the political situation? How do you help you child make sense of it all? How do you impart your moral values and beliefs when the President of the United States does not appear to embody them?
Families are the microcosm of society’s macrocosm. Whatever goes on in the bigger world, your child’s world within your family is the source of his influence. If you bully your children with fear tactics to get them to behave, they learn the power of bullying. If you make sarcastic remarks about people of other races, your children will too. If they question themselves because of the conditions you place on your love or acceptance with your criticisms and judgments, they will set their own conditions on their primary source of influence. But if you hold your children in your hearts at all times regardless of the mistakes they inevitably make—no matter the size of the mistake—you will always hold first place in their hearts.
It is more important than ever to teach your children the power of empathy, compassion, open-heartedness, and acceptance of others, and the way you do that is by modeling—by giving all of that to your children.
Here are some points of reference to keep conversations open and your influence flowing:
- If you hear a story from school, get your child’s point of view first before reacting or giving advice. Ask what they heard or how they saw it. “What do you think of that?” “Do you agree or disagree with what was said?” “How did you feel when that happened?” “What do you think should be done?” “Is there anything you would like to say to her?” Your questions of genuine curiosity show that you care about what they think and feel. Guiding their thinking leaves them feeling more empowered in the situation.
- Do not focus on getting your child to see the other side. Especially young children do not understand the many perspectives of each situation. Be sure and hear your child’s before any corrections or attempts to help him see it another way.
- Be totally honest with your point of view. You do not have to include all your thoughts with young children but do be honest with the thoughts you share. They see right through attempts to protect them with silence. When you don’t tell the truth, they imagine much worse.
- Be the respectful, responsible person you want your children to be. No matter what their behavior, you can always be compassionate and accepting of your child. Do not address the behavior only. Connect with emotions and situations that provoked it so your child feels understood.
- Egocentric children care only about how situations affect them. If they show signs of worry or upset, assure them that your job is to keep them safe. If the nature of your family is such that no one’s needs and rights are any more or any less important than anyone else’s, your children will know that their concerns are heard and addressed.
- Remember it is not your job to take away worries, fears, and anxiety. That is impossible. Your job is to be there and offer your comfort, your shoulder, and your ears for your child to process those worries.
- Answer questions simply and honestly. Younger children need less information to feel satisfied, but keep answering until the questions stop. Older children and teens deserve your thoughts and opinions in a way that help them move forward.
- Young children have a hard time understanding that everyone has both positive and negative qualities. You might not approve of certain words and behaviors of Mr. Trump but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have other good qualities and deserves a chance.
- Be sure to engage your teen, especially one who isolates in his room. “Boy we sure had an upset of an election. Everyone was shocked by the result and either elated or saddened. What are you hearing at school among your friends? Do your good friends agree with each other? I feel… with the results because…. What do think are the benefits? Is there anything that is upsetting you about it?”