How to Talk to Our Children About This Election

by Martin Wiley, Co-chair, Family Diversity Committee (FDC)

Towards the end of the last school year, my then first grade daughter came home near tears. When asked what was upsetting her, she blurted out, “Donald Trump hates me and is going to send my friends out of the country!”

And so, earlier than we had anticipated, her mother and I were forced to discuss the “information” she received on the playground. We told her that though her school buddies were no doubt brilliant, they might not have fully understood what it was they had heard from their parents or the media. It was essential that she remember that we have a system of checks and balances that affects what a president can do, and sometimes a candidate’s rhetoric outstrips their actual policy and . . . Well, my response went on much longer and more awkwardly than that.

It is not an easy thing to raise independent-thinking children at any time, but it seems especially so in our insanely connected "info dump" of a world. It can be difficult for educated adults to feel informed and confident that they understand all of the issues and platforms, never mind younger people still struggling to comprehend the ideas of voting and reasoned debate. How do we explain to our children a position that we fervently disagree with? Can we help our children handle their fears and worries if the “wrong” candidate wins? How do we discuss things a candidate that we endorse has said or done that go against what we have taught our children? And how do we ensure that our independent-minded children understand that not everyone agrees with them, and that is a good thing, and that they can find ways to talk and disagree, even when it seems like the adults around them are failing to do this?

If you have been considering these questions and would like a nonpartisan space to discuss them with like-minded parents ("like-minded" in the sense that we all have children here at TPS), then come to TPSA Parent Coffee on Tuesday, October 25, at 8:15 a.m. in the Garage. We will have a moderated yet open discussion to talk about our concerns, as well as develop some strategies for having these talks with our children.

The Family Diversity Committee seeks to help further a more inclusive, intentional community here at TPS and to support each other as we struggle forward. One thing to remember: Diversity is not just in who we are, but also in what we believe, and this discussion must be held with that thought in mind. We are not looking to endorse or denigrate anyone or any views; do not leave your opinions at the door, but also do not expect anyone else to either. Hope to see you there.

Resources to explore before or after the TPSA Parent Coffee or on your own:*

Strategies and activities for the classroom that apply to home:

An article for educators on finding "teachable moments" regarding the election:

A Time article about understanding different perspectives:

Podcasts:

  • https://longestshortesttime.com/category/podcast/  (Note: They have an upcoming episode on "Answering Kids Questions About the Election" that isn't posted yet but should be very soon!)
  • http://www.wnyc.org/shows/anxiety (This new podcast is from WNYC and the Nation. It seeks to connect with supporters of both Trump and Hillary (or neither) and to try to understand where people are coming from across the political spectrum in a respectful way. It is based on the premise that come November 9 we all still are going to live in the same country, so we need to try to see where each other is coming from.

This is a link to a story NBC News did with kids talking about the election...short yet poignant:

Tips from the American Psychological Association regarding election stress and anxiety, particularly among adults:

A Washington Post article about "election stress disorder":

Activities and ideas to help with a child's anxiety:

* If you are not on the Family Diversity Committee Google Discussion Group and would like to be added to receive more articles and resources on topics relevant to the FDC and the work being done at TPS, please join us! Email FDC co-chairs Bob Prischak at robert.prischak@gmail.com or Martin Wiley at christyandmartin@gmail.com to join the list!