Talking with children and teens after the election

Since the election, I have received numerous calls and emails from parents asking about ways to discuss the election outcome with children and teens. For the most part, these have been from parents whose children are concerned, disturbed or frightened. There are, I think, skillful ways to guide children to understand and move forward, drawing valuable lessons for the future.

To begin, it is important to explain that this is how democracy works. However disappointing the outcome may be to them, citizens of the United States do have a voice, and using it is both a privilege and an obligation. Votes are a commitment to the future. Election outcomes will sometimes please us and sometimes not. That is an inevitable aspect of a democracy.

Beyond that, you may find it helpful to explore with your child or teenager exactly which issues are especially important to him or her. For some girls in particular, the hope of breaking through the ultimate glass ceiling was paramount, and failing to do so is disheartening. For other children, it is concern about climate change and protecting the planet; for others the greatest concerns are about social justice and equality; still others worry about student loan debt and future wellbeing.

You can help your child identify area(s) of greatest concern and begin to find ways to channel frustration into positive energy to work toward meaningful changes. Children and teens can volunteer for organizations that support causes that matter to them. They can become involved in projects at school and in their communities that promote changes, even small ones.

Thus, if your child or teenager is discouraged or concerned, you can guide him to understand and appreciate how democracy works, to draw lessons about our civic responsibility to participate in it, and together you can find ways to use this an opportunity to get involved in issues that matter most to him or her.

Whether your child is happy or unhappy about the outcome of the election, you may want to encourage your child to be gracious with all friends and classmates, including those whose views are different. For that is the only way that democracy can continue to work.

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