If you woke up today in shock or in excitement (if you even went to sleep last night), you might have been trying to wrap your head around what just happened. And then you have to talk to your kids about it.
We asked Julia Hoke, a licensed psychologist and the director of psychological services at the Austin Child Guidance Center, what to tell our kids.
If your side won, it’s important to let kids know that some of their friends might not be sharing their enthusiasm. They or their might say things in the heat of the moment, that they don’t mean, or they or their might have said some things throughout the campaign that they didn’t mean.
The general message to give to your child no matter how they sided: Be kind. Try to see it from someone else’s position.
And if mean words continue and a friend won’t let up, tell an adult.
For families who might be in a state of shock, kids who might be feeling very hurt that their side didn’t win or concerned about the outcome, it’s important to calm their fears, as best as you can.
“What kids want to know first is that they are safe,” Hoke says.”It’s hard when adults are feeling that we’re not safe, but it’s ‘we’re your parents and we’re going to look out for you.'”
Be honest with your children about how you are feeling, but also don’t try to scare them by given them too much information, too much emotion.
Most kids really want to know: what does it mean for me, our family and my friends? Try to be reassuring, but you can be honest and tell them that you really don’t know. Continue to reassure them that your job as the parent is to keep them safe.
For parents and children who have been worried this election about their legal status, this might be especially hard to do.
“It’s important to validate their feelings,” Hoke says, even if you can’t answer the question of what it means.
“As much as parents can, reassure them that ‘I’m the mom, I’m the dad, I’m going to handle that. It’s not something you need to worry about.'”
Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about their feelings and yours as well. To not talk about it, will make kids worry more, Hoke says. It’s OK to admit you are worried, too.
If you’re the parent who unwisely said things like “If he wins, we’re moving to Canada,” it’s time to tell your child that you really didn’t mean that.
Tell them: “Sometimes people say things in the heat of the moment. We’re going to stay here. The things that were important to us yesterday are still important to us today.”
Make it about the things you value as a family, even if you don’t agree with the things the president elect has said he values.
If kids were very excited by the Clinton campaign, and now feel defeated, encourage them to be involved in other ways.
“What can we still do to make changes?” Can we volunteer with a group of refugees or people that are different than us? Can we visit a place of worship different that our own? Can we be kind to others.
“This wasn’t the end of all those things, those things that made you excited or passionate about it,” Hoke says.
And also remember that the conversation you have with a 5 year old is different than the one you’ll have with the 11 year old. It’s OK to tell kids that you don’t know the answers to their questions, that you don’t know the future. That you’re shocked and hurt as well.
A big hug is in order.
How have you talked to your kids about the election?