How to Talk to Your Kids About the Election

2016-02-26-113103-504438

The ballots were cast. The votes were counted.

Maybe your choice wasn’t the choice. Now you’re angry, or disappointed, or scared — for yourself, for your country, for your children. Millions of parents are wondering where to go from here, and what to tell our kids about the next president of the United States.

As an empowerment coach, I am called and determined more than ever to help young girls (and boys) learn how to use their eyes, ears and mouths to listen, speak up and understand what matters to themselves and those around them. I want to give parents and children tools to help move forward into action make a difference.

Here are my suggestions for starting a meaningful dialogue to learn and grow from a challenging situation.

Remember that we are the masters of our own castles.

We get to tuck our kids in bed at night and share their triumphs and missteps. We get to kiss their boo-boo’s and explain that indeed people can be mean spirited and close-minded (sometimes that person is even us). Instead of hiding out in our homes, it’s time to double down on making a difference — to actually turn our fear on its head and move into action. We must speak out for those who can’t speak out for themselves and teach our kids to do the same.

Your Homework: Do one thing in the coming week (while your kids are watching) that exemplifies the type of values and actions you want to instill. Making a difference starts now!

Explain the Process.

Explain to your children that those who understand and “win the process,” win in the end. It’s important to understand and “play the game” so to speak. Often people who feel marginalized or are disenfranchised are willing to take greater risks — such as voting for a wild card candidate. This is important to think about as it relates to youth and risk taking behavior. Trump created an enthusiasm around words, whether bad or good, and inspired people to action.

Your Homework… Explain, in age appropriate terms, what the word “process” means. Maybe you explain it by citing the process to win in hide and seek or dodgeball or Candyland. And that sometimes we may like or agree with the outcome of the process and we can look to have the process changed or sometimes we just work towards accepting and understanding what happened (or went wrong). If your children are older, you can talk about the television show Survivor and explain how different competitors have different approaches on how to be the last Survivor at the end of the show. Some contestants choose a process that is not “pretty” or kind and some look to form alliances with other contestants and work together. Help them understand that we always have the opportunity for a more favorable outcome in the future, if we turn our current disappointment into action.

Share your values from your perspective.

Just as we talk to children about the issues they face in daily life, we must address what is affecting our nation as a whole, but this cannot be a one-time conversation. In the context of this election or with any lesson you want to teach, a constant, open line of communication is essential. Let your kids know what is important to your family from your own perspective and make it an ongoing topic. You have great influence over your children’s budding political understanding — inform it with solid values and encourage them to learn more. Let them know the door is open for discussion anytime.

Your Homework… Schedule time in your iCalendar to take your daughter out for a treat. Talk about what your family stands for and how that relates to what they have seen or heard during this election cycle. A great way to hone in on your family’s values is to create a family mission statement. For examples, visit my free stuff page.

Help them develop their own opinion.

Let your children know that they don’t have to agree with any leader’s values or behavior. If you feel it is age-appropriate, start planting the seeds now that it is healthy to evaluate anyone’s actions, choices and authority. When talking to your kids about the result of this particular election, they might not understand why a candidate who appears to be a poor role model could be the next President. This is a great opportunity to help your kids understand that sometimes wrong and bad behavior does get rewarded. However, by speaking up and doing what feels right, we can help steer the universe in the right direction — but only if we get involved! We must speak out against what we see and know is wrong, and stand up for what we believe in. Our children don’t always instinctively do this. That’s where our work needs to begin.

Your Homework… When sitting at the dinner table in the coming weeks, pick a topic that you feel members of your family will have varying opinions about. It could be something related to the election or it could be the value in homework; whatever it is, make a point to showcase the different opinions about the topic. Talk about things they could do to try to steer others to look at their opinion in a new light.

Show them how to affect change.

Find what matters to your child and empower them to make a difference. You can show them that they don’t have to agree or connect with negative, ignorant or rude people. Encourage them to take small steps to connect — include someone who’s always left out on the playground or help a classmate who is struggling with their work. Even small acts of kindness can have a major impact.

Your Homework… In the coming month, volunteer as a family somewhere that helps take all of you out of your comfort zone. Find somewhere to serve others where your children can see and interact with those they are helping. Making a human connection with someone in need can build empathy for those not as fortunate.

Model strength in difficult times.

Children look to their parents in times of uncertainty. If they see us hide our heads in the sand and cower under threats to our values and way of life, they will follow suit. Explain that fear and sadness might be a natural response, but it is what we do with that fear that can bring meaningful change to ourselves and others. Show them how to step up to the plate and stand up for what is important, even when it’s scary.

Your Homework… Don’t hide your concerns from your children. Be open and honest about your fears, making sure to share your resolve to fight against hate or injustice. Setting the example of courage to fight against such issues starts with acknowledging the issues.

America is made up of individuals who can choose good. Individuals who can choose kindness and compassion. This is our opportunity to take ownership of our values and show them to others by our words and actions.

I am optimistic and hopeful. Let’s all do our part in helping set a different tone. One of love, appreciation and acceptance for all people in the coming months and years.

Who knows, one day we may even all agree on which member of One Direction is cutest. #itsliam

 

Note:  Vote image above attribution to http://www.dronethusiast.com.

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