How Should You Talk to Your Kids About the Election?

The first thing we parents have to do is reassure our children that, post-election, they are safe.
How Should You Talk to Your Kids About the Election?
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Whether any of us is individually happy or not about the outcome of the election, we can all agree that this election did not model responsible civic behavior, either online or off.

Related: The Surprising Election Issues Working Families Care About Most

Instead, we lived through a vicious campaign season that sharply divided our nation. We witnessed one presidential candidate engage in a horrible "Twitter war" and, in the last days before the vote, negative campaigning by the other. Then, suddenly it was over: President-elect Trump stated in his victory speech that, "Now it's time for us to come together as one united people." And, in her concession remarks, Secretary Hillary Clinton said that, "Fighting for what is right is worth it."

Today, post-election, most of us want to embrace those values. But, as parents, we have something else far more important to do first: We have to reassure our children. How do we do that?

Reassure them that they are safe.

When speaking to kids of any age about the election, the most important thing is to assure them that regardless of who was elected, they are safe.

Young children and adolescents worry about their safety when any big change occurs, which is why this is the most important thing we can address. Remember that, as children, they have not yet experienced repeated political election cycles and so cannot draw on an understanding of our nation's peaceful transitions of power. To adults, uncertainty is normal; to children, it is not.

So, explain to your kids that they are protected by our political system of checks and balances -- be sure to define what that means -- which keeps any one person or group from "controlling" the country. When doing this, maintain a reassuring calm: Whether you are acting in your role as an entrepreneur or a parent, your children will pick up on your moods and demeanor.

Parents' moods can actually scare children. So, be mindful what subtle messages you are sharing. Emotions are natural, and it's fine to let children see that at one time or another, you are angry, frustrated or worried. But also show them that you can sort out those feelings and move on. And when you explain these things, remember that, when it comes to kids, keeping things simple is best.

Address the bullying and racism we've seen in this election.

Donald Trump’s bullying, name-calling and racist statements during the campaign need to be addressed. It's quite logical in this context that some children may be confused. "How can a man that is mean to people be our president?" they may be asking.

Parents need to emphasize that such unacceptable behavior is never okay, but that sometimes politicians act like this during the election season.

Now that Trump is going to be president, his job will be to bring everyone together. Unity is very important, so tell your kids that both Donald Trump and Secretary Clinton spoke graciously to each other following the vote, as did President Obama to Trump.

Those actions, however, while commendable, do not excuse Trump's headline-making statements -- you know the ones.

Talk to your children about how hurtful personal and racial comments can be. Use this as a teaching moment. Using actual examples is much more effective in getting across any message regarding bullying or bigotry. Emphasize that regardless of what other people do, you expect your children to always treat others respectfully. 

Also focus on the positive aspects of the election, the big picture: There are winners and losers, you might say; and what do you do if you lose? Clinton's concession speech was an excellent example of losing gracefully. She asked people to give the winner a chance, and she spoke about the important nature of the "fight.” 

Related: 7 Unexpected Winners and Losers From the Election

As an entrepreneur, you too can teach your children that if you believe in something, then fight for it. Work hard to pursue your goals and don't let others deter you. Get involved, so you can make an impact.

As a parent, look for the positive takeaways in this time of certainty and confusion. Give your kids the hope and encouragement to see the positive.

Talk to your daughter, in particular.

If you have a daughter, explain to her the "glass ceiling" metaphor that's played such a big role in this election. We could have elected the first woman president  -- but we didn't. So, speak positively to your still-impressionable young daughter about the significance of a woman running for the presidency and nearly winning, and not giving up.

Ask your daughter's opinion of what Hillary Clinton should do now. Young girls need to look up to women in the spotlight in powerful roles in business and politics, not just those in beauty or fashion. 

Don't forget the role of social media.

There were countless examples of angry voters on both sides, attacking and disparaging each other on social media during this campaign season.

We have to stop, take a long look at our "social" behavior and create serious reform in cyber civics. It is our hope that President-elect Trump and other leaders will see that the misuse of social media is an international epidemic that is breaking down our fundamental values. Placing importance on the value of cyber civics education is a necessity in our homes, schools and communities.

In that regard, here are some tips to start with, outlined in Katie's book Don't Press Send: A Mindful Approach to Social Media: An Education in Cyber Civics:

Pause before you post: Before you post or tweet anything, think of your audience and choose your words carefully. Don't write words you wouldn't say to someone face to face.

Think before you click. Before responding to an email, text or post, remind yourself to mindfully respond and not impulsively react. Ask yourself, "How would this make me feel if I received it?" Work to strengthen the empathetic skills that are weakened by the emotional barriers that screens create.

Before posting, use the acronmym THINK: T-thoughtful, H-helpful, I-inspiring, N-necessary, K-kind.

Ask permission. Ask people's permission before posting photos or videos involving them. There are valid reasons they may not want their photos online or their whereabouts known. In this context, private photos are especially sensitive and not to be used. They may even be illegal.

In this post-election season which is just beginning, think about these and other related themes as the content to use for talks with your children and adolescents.

Remember that the particulars of personal views should not be put onto young minds not yet able to comprehend the complexity of these issues.

Instead, think of this as a great opportunity to speak about the electoral college and our voting system that your children will one day inherit. Trump won in the electoral college, Clinton won the popular vote. What does that mean? Is it fair, from their perspective? What would be fair?

What are the other components of the government that prevent too much power being in one man’s (or woman's) hands? Your children may not remember what they read in books about this time. But a good, reassuring talk with Mom or Dad, paired with what's on the news this week, will stick with them for life.

Related: 7 Things Business Owners Need to Know Post-Election

Be careful how you manage it.