“Mommy, did the girl win?” Nearly a decade of clinical experience providing therapy to suicidal clients, individuals struggling with gender identity, teenagers in the clutches of addiction, and my three year old daughter made me speechless with five simple words. With tears in my eyes, I tightly held my daughter and told her that no, the girl didn’t win.
In a time when the news is consumed with rapidly increasing opiate addiction, middle school children committing suicide, and cyber bullying, how do we, as parents, explain to our children that the party we did not vote for will be leading the country in ways we do not support? I have some thoughts…
- Show Our Children How to Use Positive Coping Skills. Acknowledge your feelings and demonstrate how to channel those emotions into something constructive. Instead of having an extra glass of wine, go for a walk as a family. Rather than hurling verbal insults, set goals and make plans for the future. Encourage your children to acknowledge their feelings. Kids can sense parents’ anxieties and often act out as a result. Help your kids channel their emotions into a developmentally appropriate activity, such as coloring, reading, or playing outside. This will help you and your child alleviate stress while validating uncomfortable emotions.
- Act Kindly. Regardless of political affiliation, our country is in a state of unrest. Show your children how to give back in your community. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, ask your children to donate used toys to kids in need, or give your child change for the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign when leaving the grocery store. Explain the benefit of these actions. Volunteering produces a sense of pride and community involvement. Help your children process their emotions after helping an individual in need. Beginning these habits at a young age can start lifelong community engagement.
- Reinforce Home Values. The foundation of morals and good behavior begin in the family home. While some of the events in the world may not be congruent with the morals that we are teaching in the home, it is important to remain consistent. Provide positive reinforcement for behaviors that you want to encourage. Use age appropriate metaphors,
uch as movies or books, to explain why other behaviors are discouraged. Basic human nature is to mimic those closest to us. As a result, if we live by the ethics that we set forth for our children, they will follow suit and become positive role models to the next generation.
While the world may be struggling to set positive examples for our children, as parents, we can combat the negativity by using strong coping skills, being kind, and maintaining a definitive moral compass at home. I find comfort in the words of former First Lady Barbara Bush: “Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House, but on what happens in your house.”
A Democratic Voter
It has been an interesting week. After a long and ugly election season, it’s all finally over. I am happy about the result. The odd part is, as a Republican, I feel like it isn’t socially acceptable for me to be authentic about that. The term “silent majority” emerged out of this election cycle and oddly, I still feel like I need to be silent. You see, to share my feelings about the election result means risking being seen as racist, sexist, homophobic and numerous other negative labels.
I am none of these. I am an open hearted, compassionate human being who voted on issues unrelated to these labels. Wanting different things from our government and for our country doesn’t make me heartless. I care deeply about people and my career and relationships bear witness to that. The beauty and uniqueness of our elections is that we are free to have different opinions, another form of diversity.
When we don’t “win” it is human to feel disappointed and to grieve or mourn in healthy ways. I know. I did it the last two elections. However, when we project our dislike of the winning candidate on to those who voted for him in shaming ways that gets hurtful and divisive. My hunch is that voters from both parties saw the flaws of the candidates and voted for the platform that most closely aligned with their values.
Let’s accept the election result and focus on seeing one another as individuals, not as categories or labels. Assumptions and labels perpetuate divisiveness and the notion that those who disagree with us are somehow bad or wrong. I get that it is easier and emotionally safer for us to go to those judgements because it doesn’t require anything of us. I challenge us to look beyond anger to see what fear or anxiety lies beneath. It’s my experience that anger masks many other emotions. From there, we can advocate in healthy ways for beliefs and values we strongly hold.
I believe that there is far more that unites us than divides us so I challenge us to focus on these things. Think about your friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers who voted differently than you: now embrace the qualities that you respect, admire, or simply enjoy about them. Allow for differences of opinion while valuing all the reasons you liked them in the first place. In my opinion, a crazy election is not worth losing relationships over!
A Republican Voter