117: Three Ways to Talk to Your Kids About The Election

Welcome – to listen to today’s episode, scroll down to the bottom of this post and click the triangular “play” button…

The gist of this show is, we take care of each other. It’s going to be okay.

This morning I woke up to pandemonium, with Canadian loved ones seriously offering their homes… Some of the calmest people that I know terrified and freaking out… My Facebook feed – like yours, I’m sure – filled with tears and panic.

Because half the country was pro–her, and the other half of the country pro-him, we were all going to know some people who hate and fear the results of yesterday’s presidential election.

What resonated with me most: parents asking “how do I tell my kids about this?”

Here’s how I talked to my boys this morning: I posted a quote to ponder.

In the recent Boston Globe Magazine Women & Power issue, Axcelis Technologies CEO Mary G. Puma was asked how she handles crisis. She responded that a mentor of hers used to say (here comes the quote):

“Never waste a good crisis.”

Meaning: how can we move forward?

I wanted this episode to use today’s “good crisis” as a catalyst, to help us all bring our kids through tough stuff.

So, I got in here a little earlier than usual in hopes of making you feel better if you are, shall we say, not your usual calm self.

Click weturnedoutokay.com/117 to read about the three ways you can help your kids, and talk to them about this election!

1) Most of all, our kids need us to be calm, and to communicate safety. Especially for the very young, they will neither know nor care what is causing us to flip out – all they’ll know is that we are flipping out.

As former assistant secretary of National Homeland Security Juliette Kayyem said in episode 110, “your kids are feeding off of you… So, if you’re in front of the TV yelling at CNN that the world is going to hell in a handbasket… Trust me, you just made a neurotic kid.”

If you voted for Hillary (as I did), this is a tough moment to be calm! I get that. Like a friend of mine (who lives up here in Massachusetts, where we just passed a law legalizing recreational use of pot) posted on Facebook, “I would like my marijuana now please.”

But in our homes, we are the leaders. Our kids look to us for safety and security. We must provide it.

2) Cultivate empathy; this one may seem counterintuitive, but stay with me because it’s really important.

It’s so easy to trash the other side in this election, to conclude that everyone who voted for Hillary is a member of the liberal-media-loving, nanny-state elite.

Or that all Trump voters are racist, misogynistic fanatics.

But if we can put ourselves in those voters’ shoes – in other words, if we can think with empathy – we can maybe ask ourselves why. Why did they vote that way, seriously?

Why did 11,000 people (according to Reddit, later determined to be untrue ) vote Harambe the guerrilla as our next president? Probably not because they lost their minds, as my sixteen-year-old thought, but still they did it and it does seem like a pretty crazy thing!

But when I put myself in their shoes and realize that, from their perspective, they simply could not bring themselves to vote for any of the candidates on the ballot, it seems less crazy, more of a comical protest.

Not that you want to share all that with your young child… Think of this as part 2A, really about our mindset.

2B does pertain to our kids, though: we parents can cultivate empathy to communicate to kids that were all on the same team.

This past Saturday in the Boston Globe I read a fantastic article, Whatever Happened to Empathy?, by Jaci Conry. (It’s great, you should read it! Click here to do so.)

I found myself thinking about it today because, especially if we are upset by the election outcome, we really need the support of our families and friends right now. We need our kids on our team; in Jaci’s words: “parents need to make teamwork and caring a priority.”

Also, our kids need to be able to walk in others’ shoes. The article continues: “[Our kids] must also learn to develop empathy for the people they encounter in their daily lives: a server in a restaurant, the bus driver, the school secretary.”

When they’re really small, we want to give our kids the message that “we are a family and we take care of each other”… As they get older we want to expand that idea out.

We want to get to a point where our children understand that even people who voted for the candidate we didn’t want to win are still people.

Empathy is the basis for so many wonderful human traits; cultivating it in our own mindset and in our children’s lives is really important now.

3) Encourage kids’ questions.

Kids are such open books; if we say to them “what are your concerns,” they’ll tell us. Often times, especially in younger children, their concerns have to do with their own and their families’ basic safety; because kids are so egocentric, it’s hard for them to understand how something nebulous like a presidential election could impact their lives.

But it’s easy for them to become worried when they see us scared and upset.

So, answers to most of young kids’ questions in a situation like this will be some version of “we are here to keep you safe.”
I really, really hope this helps you through these next weeks and days.

We WILL get through this. We will help each other, and we will be okay.

In the meantime, don’t waste this crisis (if you see it as such) – use it to help strengthen the bonds you have with your children by communicating calm and safety, focusing on empathy, and encouraging their questions.