Ok. you can breath now. For some it will be a sigh of relief and for others a heavy- hearted exhale of resignation. But win or lose, the election is over. Finally. Because the drama of the campaign went on for so long, it became a large part of our everyday lives and is now hard to turn off. And even though we have a new president-elect, the process continues with some uncertainty. So how do we settle into the new normal while helping our children feel secure?
Some practical strategies for post-election behavior:
Be a good winner or a good loser. A classic lesson for kids. Both major party candidates and President Obama followed the election with speeches about working together to unite the nation.Try to follow their lead and provide a good example for your children. You should all try to accept that other people have different viewpoints and everyone has the right to their own opinion. It’s important to try and understand the other side and be compassionate and gracious.
Share your feelings. Whether you voted for a Republican, Democrat, independent, or Libertarian, or didn’t vote, you’ve got feelings about how the election turned out. And it’s ok to share those feelings with your kids. You can explain to them why you’re excited, disappointed, scared, or nervous about the future of our country. However, be sure not to go overboard. Extreme celebration or gloating will provide poor modeling for your kids. And, extreme depression and moping will demonstrate poor resilience. You can be happy and celebrate without bragging. And you can be sad and frustrated without letting it stop you from being productive. If you are feeling so low that you cannot get on with your life, seek help.
Acknowledge your children’s feelings. Your children may feel similarly to you, but they may not share your feelings. There is a broad assumption that your children will share your political beliefs, and while it’s true they do tend to mimic their parent’s opinions and preferences through elementary school, children are individuals with their own thoughts and choices. You want to nurture that independence – don’t stifle it. They also engage in conversations separate from you at school or online. Help them with their feelings and their own expression. Teach them how to share appropriately and constructively.
Address the fear. Some people are downright scared right now, and while that is a natural feeling, you must parent with hope and joy and not with fear. It’s important to acknowledge your own feelings and explain them to your children within reason – avoid scaring your children. Understand the fear and address it head on. Don’t lie. Make sure your kids know that your number one job is to keep them safe and you will always do your best. Don’t act in haste or make jokes when it comes to the fear.
Take a break. It’s wonderful to be in the know and keep up-to-date with current affairs. Definitely stay informed, but it’s also ok to take a break from the constant commentary. Find other things to focus on and talk about with your friends and family.
Get excited. Teach your kids about how the government works and how their participation will be an important part if it. Show your kids how lucky they are to be a part of such a challenging conversation and help them get involved with issues they feel strongly about such as climate change or even health care. Knowledge is power. Figure out a way for your whole family to support efforts that you value locally, nationally, or globally.
During this transitional period in our county’s history there are unknowns about our future which can be exciting and can lead to anxiety. Embrace the changes and find as many teachable moments as you can. It may be an excellent time to identify and get involved with causes you and your family feel strongly about. This is an especially good time to move forward and focus on new efforts, be they civic minded or holiday oriented. And remember to keep the conversation open with your children. And always, breath…
Amy combines academic research, educational practice, and real-world experience in her writing and workshops to help parents find perspective and develop confidence in raising their families and to help teachers better understand their own practice. She gains invaluable insights from her own personal research subjects (AKA her children and husband) whom she learns from and enjoys every day.
Amy Alamar, EdD, has worked in the field of education as a teacher, teacher educator, researcher, parent educator, and education reformer for over fifteen years. In late 2014, Amy published her first book entitled: Parenting for the Genius: Developing Confidence in Your Parenting through Reflective Practice (For the Genius Press, 2014). The book is a comprehensive guide to becoming the most thoughtful and confident parent possible, with anecdotes and details relating to the guidance and support of children in specific age ranges throughout their formative years. Amy is also a contributing author to the Disney parenting website, Babble.com.
As a frequent speaker to parent and faculty groups, Amy focuses on a wide range of parenting topics including student stress and wellbeing, raising digital natives in the information age, and parenting kids with character. She also conducts faculty development workshops that focus on engagement with learning, professional communication, and curriculum design. She was an invited guest of Michelle Obama at the White House for a conversation about kids’ health in 2016.