Talking to Kids About Difficult Political Moments
In the United States on November 9, many parents woke up wondering how to talk to their children about their feelings about the outcome of the national elections. As Michelle Maltais wrote in the L.A. Times, “Parents struggled to contextualize for their children that a candidate for the highest office in the country displayed the very vulgarity and bullying behavior many families and schools worked so hard to combat.”
In this podcast, we explore how parents opened up that conversation, and how one 13-year old viewed her family’s arguments about politics over the dinner table. One parent describes wanting to protect her son’s friends who were called racist names at school the week after November 8th.
How can children be helped to feel empowered in their lives?
How can they stand up for friends getting bullied? For girls, how can parents help them build their sense of self and self-esteem despite negative images and messages aimed at women and girls? What are some ways families can use the framework of a noble goal to create positive change in the world in the face of difficult headwinds? How can parents help their children understand their own emotions regarding the outcome and the future? Where is that balance between being honest about your feelings, fears and worries about current events, and protecting your children?
Parents have always had to decide how or if they were going to discuss world and national events and politics with their children. Some families openly and joyously debate and discuss, while others argue, and still others prefer not to discuss such things at all. Listening to the emotions behind the facts and opinions can help build empathy and let children feel heard.
I can still remember watching my son sleeping on 9/11, just after the attacks happened in New York. I was wondering if I should wake him up and tell him what happened. He was just shy of his 11th birthday, and I decided to tell him the truth, as I knew it, and to try to answer his questions, even when I didn’t really have many answers.
These moments of upheaval and uncertainty can offer an opportunity to build emotional literacy, optimism, and autonomy through emotional intelligence practices. Parents can tune in to their own feelings and listen to those of their children. Noble goals may come into sharper focus. Connection with others in common purpose becomes a way for parents and children to engage with the world, whether volunteering for a charity or being engaged in politics in a more direct way.