For many parents, our kids were the prism through which we viewed this election and why we cared so much about what happened.
While some families are relieved or excited by the election results, many are devastated and feel personally threatened by the outcome.
Here at ParentsTogether Action, our goal is to support parents every day with timely, meaningful resources. For those families that are struggling to talk with their kids about this election, we hope the following resources and parent perspectives offer some support.
Some solid bullet points to guide your conversation with your kids, including how to talk about gender and address the fears of kids who are worried that friends or family may face deportation.
Common Sense Media: What should we tell our kids? Be tomorrow’s leaders, today
“As parents, teachers, and advocates for kids, we are empowered to take positive action. We can be the antidote to a divisive and ugly media environment by raising a generation of kids who value character, by being a positive role model, and by standing up for others when we see an injustice.”
Sparkle Stories: Find calm, reach out–and then do something brave
“Tuesday’s election was historic and the entire world is feeling it. As social media lights up and financial markets react and politicians, celebrities, and our friends and family express how they are feeling and what they are imagining for the future, let us take a moment to… Find calm. Pay attention to others. And show our children what true Courage and Resilience looks like.”
HuffingtonPost.com: What do we tell the children?
“Remind them ― to ease their minds ― that not everyone who voted for Donald Trump did so because they believe the bigoted things that he has said this year. Many of them voted for him because they feel frustrated with the economy, they feel socially left behind, and they are exercising the one power they have. We need to challenge Trump and his supporters to differentiate between their fears and the bigotry catalyzed by those fears.”
“Maybe if we want to raise girls who are ready to fight for the better country they deserve, we need to wake them up tomorrow, the first day of a changed America, and break their hearts. We need to tell them the truth, even though the truth…is scary and sad. I’m going to try. Am I strong enough? Beats me.”
Teaching Tolerance: The Day After
A guide for teachers that includes helpful tips for parents such as creating space for reflection and discussing the concept of “respect.” “Find ways to encourage students to pay respect to the democratic process and the office of the presidency itself, regardless of who occupies the executive seat. Emphasize that using a critical lens and holding our elected officials accountable is not the same as being disrespectful or uncivil.”
Perspectives from Our Parents:
The day after the election, we asked parents what they were finding helpful in talking to their kids. Here is a diverse sampling of their thoughts, with viewpoints from across the political spectrum.
This afternoon, after school, I’m going to pick [my daughter] up and we’re going to get a cup of coffee. And I’ll tell her that Trump won and that that makes me sad. I’ll tell her that sometimes people are mean and sometimes people do mean things. And that when they do, it’s our job to love more. It’s our job to be extra nice so that there’s more love in the world than meanness and the love can cover the hate. Then we’ll go home and bake a cake for her preschool teachers because right now I don’t know what else to tell my daughter other than we can love more and we will.
Let kids listen to our leaders
Allowing them to hear the speeches of the candidates, and President Obama, helped my kids. To hear the respectful words of each and how they were reacting to the election and presidency and where we go from here was helpful in that it showed all three decently and maturely handling themselves.
You are worthy
When speaking to my children of color I lost my words. However I read some advice today from blogger Kevin Hoffman: “We have endured worse and we still stand. You are strong, you are valuable, you are priceless, and you are worthy. ”
Change comes from Americans loving each other, despite our differences
We’re a family that supported Trump, so when my girls woke this morning, we told them and shared the excitement together. Then, I told them that our job is now to love. I said there were a lot of broken hearts today, and some fearful ones as well, and even though the person we supported won, and we can be happy about that, we needed to love those that have broken hearts. The change we are craving as a nation won’t come from the White House, it will come from Americans loving each other despite disagreement and differences. It will come from learning to listen to each other to gain understanding into the hearts and minds, cares and concerns for our fellow Americans.
Answer the questions they have and trust kids to be resilient
What I am trying to focus on in talking to my kids is answering the questions they’re actually asking, honestly, and simply, without explaining *all* of it or inadvertently burdening them with everything I am feeling. Our kids have an amazing capacity for resilience and the ability to absorb difficult stuff–when we explain it in age-appropriate ways–as long as we let them do it at their own pace and let them lead the way.
-Justin Ruben, ParentsTogether Co-Founder, New York
Our turn to stand up for what’s right
I told my children that it is our turn to make sure we speak up and stand for what is right.
A focus on change
We are a liberal, Dem family with a bi-racial child. We voted for Trump. But not because we agreed with his policies or liked him. We voted for him because we feel the gov’t needs change. We told our son this & all of us are struggling with the Trump win. To help him find balance, we made a list of things we agree with & do not agree with regarding both candidates. Then used this as a catalyst for conversation about no one being all “good” or all “bad” & how we need to look for finding peace with everyone.
Share your belief in a larger plan
My daughter is ten so she has been following everything that was going on. I found that relaying God is in control and remembering the stories in the Bible where terrible rulers were voted in and God’s triumph has been my play. It might be bad, it could be terrible, but over all God has a plan.
Let kids keep being kids
I wanted [my daughter] to know that grown ups would be having all the feelings but that it was NOT her job to fix anything. Her job was to keep being a kid. It was also not her job to make us feel better. we might be sad or angry but she did not need to make it better. She might have feelings too, we could all have feelings together. it is okay for us to be sad. sometimes grown ups are sad, and angry, and afraid. None of that is her fault.
-Autumn, New York
The people have spoken
It’s simple–the voice of American people have spoken in this election. Not just for the Presidency but in the Senate and in the House of Reps. Our 3 children understand that the American voters (all across our diverse nation) decide who will be in each office. They are elected by the people, for the people. We The People by Peter Spier, A More Perfect Union by Betsy & Giulio Maestro, and John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith are great books explaining WHY we have the great opportunity to vote even if we don’t always agree with the outcome.
Seek understanding in each other
We didn’t use a resource, but talked about the importance of supporting our leaders, no matter how we feel. We talked about how there has been a peaceful transfer of power for centuries and that it’s important for this to be peaceful. We talked about how no one person, even the president, can make America anything on his own. If we want peace, we must all be peaceful. If we all want understanding, we must all seek to understand one another.
Checks and balances
My older one gets the idea I’m not happy about the result, but I also told him that… while [Trump] will be the face, what’s cool about our government set-up is the system of checks and balances that can help keep negative (in our eyes) changes from happening (though also sometimes affecting good change!). And not to complain–we’ll see what happens, half of what Trump said was to get people emotional.
My daughter asked with a stunned look on her face, “How did he win?” My response was, because people voted for him… that means many people wanted him to win. Then I told her: This is why it’s important for you to vote when you get older. And we talked about voting and helping others that aren’t strong enough to help themselves.
-April, New Mexico
I have used “simple honesty” with my 13-yr old boy. I tell him the truth in brief statements to avoid him becoming overwhelmed. I am careful to state my values without using inflammatory words. Most importantly I listen to him. I always finish by reinforcing how lucky we are to live in this country, and how important it is to embrace our civic responsibility (voting, volunteering, fighting for what’s right). We cannot ignore or deny this reality.
-Leah Anne, California
“I was there for that”
I told my kids that they are a part of history that is unprecedented. They will be able to grow up saying “I was there for that.” I think that helped them be a little bit more comfortable with the situation.
Trust in our system of government
I told my son that neither option for president was the kind of person we would want him to be like, but that we had to choose who to vote for based on the one that we thought was not as harmful to our country as the other. And now we have to trust the system of government to help the new president. Not a lot of people are happy, but just like we aren’t always happy with the teachers we have, we still honor and respect their position.
Perspectives on the arc of Presidential history
Today, we talked about how there have been many presidents — some good, some not as good — and there will be many more. We talked about the brave and strong leaders who will keep people safe and happy. And we focused on who she thought should be the next president.
Then she went off on her own and drew pictures. The first was her with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, and Senator Elizabeth Warren. It’s a five-year-old’s vision of leadership and of the future.
Focus on action
My ten year-old daughter and I have decided that we’ll tackle this at a very grassroots level. We are going to empower ourselves to do good in any and all ways that feel right. We’ve abandoned the notion that we need experience to do something… In a very perverse way, we’ve been freed from conventional expectations, and are jumping in head first. We will start by being kind, patient, understanding, hospitable, and non judgmental. From there, we are going to select causes that truly resonate with us, and we are going to champion them, in big ways, just as Hillary Clinton has championed for women, children and families. Not just in ways that fit our experience or expectations, but in ways that embrace our passion and in turn, will help those who feel they are at risk.
Kindness, decency & love
My son is only 9 months old. But now I know I need to work even harder to teach him kindness and decency and love. That all people deserve respect and love. To be curious about and learn from the differences that make this beautiful world go around. I will encourage him to be considerate and have manners. I will teach him to be proud of his own (white) lineage and history, but never to use that against someone or to believe that makes him superior in any way. I will teach him that no means no. I will tell him that we would not be here if his great great grandparents weren’t allowed in. And I will show him I love him every day, in the hopes that he will learn how to show love.
Looking to the future
On Election Day, we encouraged parents to take their kids to the polls and share their #FamilyVote selfies. We were overwhelmed by the response, and buoyed by the smiles of thousands of parents showing up at the polls, teaching their kids: This is what democracy looks like. We have a voice and a vote. We matter. You matter.
Today is the beginning of a new era. For some, that’s a good thing. For some, it’s scary. For all of us, there are many unknowns.
But there are two things we know without a doubt. One, all of the kids we saw in those incredible #FamilyVote pics yesterday–they are worth fighting for. And two, if we can help our kids show up with love, we will all be better for it.
Check out some of your amazing #FamilyVote selfies here.