Many of us woke up Wednesday morning to the unexpected news that Donald Trump had won the Presidency.
As a developmental and clinical psychologist who works extensively with parents and families, I got a lot of inquiries on Wednesday morning from parents looking for guidance about how to talk to their kids about the election results, especially as protests, anger, and uncertainty follow in its wake.
Here are 3 suggestions for how to talk to kids about this election:
- Remind kids that their daily lives are unlikely to change greatly. They will still go to school, play with friends, and spend time with family.
- Discuss with them how to disagree without being disrespectful. For example, don’t vilify or dismiss others. Avoid name-calling or put-downs. If we do that, we go “low” inside of “high” as Michelle Obama noted.
- Above all, this election gives us a chance to emphasize the importance of trying to understand perspectives that are different from our own.
Understanding why other people think or believe something is an absolutely necessary step toward bridging differences and working toward compromise.
This is a useful skill for all of our relationships and interactions, and one that will serve our kids (and their communities) well throughout their lives.
Having this goal of understanding does not, however, imply that we will agree with someone else’s perspective—and that’s okay. This is a powerful message.
When I work with couples on the verge of divorce, this distinction between understanding and agreeing can allow a real conversation to begin, in which each side can feel heard, while still expressing their own views.
As our country grapples with how to move forward after this highly polarized election, real conversations like that will be our best hope.