On Tuesday, we experienced an unprecedented election following a highly charged, seemingly endless presidential campaign. The single piece of clarity that I had in the fog on Wednesday morning was that how we as parents responded to our children about the election results was vitally important . There are many lessons there for our children and ultimately for us.
Handling Winning and Losing
What we model for our children when we win and when we lose becomes their understanding of civility and sportsmanship. Celebrate victories with integrity, compassion, and kindness. Examine losses with confidence, curiosity, and caring for yourself and others. This election does not change who you are. It does not change your vision for your family, your community, and your country.
It is important to experience your emotions about the outcome of the election. Feel your feelings. If your candidate did not win, allow yourself time to grieve the loss. If you feel sad, cry. Let your children see your sadness. Assure them you are OK and that they are safe. Let them know that you are simply feeling sad right now and it will not last forever.
If you feel angry, feel it deeply. Examine where you feel powerless. Then remind yourself of what Maria Shriver read from Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty in a video that she posted the day after the election – “Our leaders got confused, so we are all leaders now. They told us there was nothing we could do. They were wrong. When we tell ourselves there is nothing we can do, we are wrong.”
Whatever emotions you are feeling, feel them, and let them go. As Pamela Dunn, author of It’s Time to Look Inside: To See Yourself and Everyone Through the Lens of Magnificence, says, “Feelings are meant to be felt, not necessarily expressed.” I invite you to read Pam’s book and to check out any of the courses from Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company for more about experiencing and expressing your emotions.
Create a space for your children to experience their emotions. Talk about your feelings and ask them about theirs. Make this a conversation that will unfold over days and weeks.
Staying Centered in Your Values
Use this time to reaffirm and stay centered in your values. Talk with your children about the values that you share with your candidate. Discuss your family values. Talk about how to live from your values in your daily life.
My friend, Catherine, recently created a manifesto. She began with her personal Love Manifesto, which included revealing that “Sometimes, I am mean, nasty, judgmental, and treat others poorly.” She went on to accept and love those parts of herself as well as the parts that are easier to love. She closed by saying, “It is only through the sum of my parts and the entirety of my being that I can say…I am a love warrior and I am magnificent.” She then applied that to our nation by writing the following manifesto for our country:
“If we, as a nation, can understand this in the core of our hearts,
If we, as a nation, can love and accept the parts of ourselves that we don’t like, and
If we, as a nation, know that all of our parts have helped us get where we are today and will help us be a better version of ourselves tomorrow,
Then we will come together, stronger and more loving than ever before.”
Consider writing your own family’s manifesto or living by Catherine’s. It will allow you, your family, and all of us to rise.
Teach your children that they can continue to move the world forward through supporting their friends and community. You can model that for them by staying involved or by getting involved. Contribute to your community as a family by volunteering with organizations that share your values.
Read the book Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty with your children, and practice acts of kindness and beauty. Begin to notice those acts being done by others and point them out to your children. Ask them to begin noticing, too.
Facing the Fear of What We Imagined Would Happen
We live surrounded by a media that feeds us sound bites. We do not know the complete, complex human beings running for office. From the snippets we see, we label them, judge them, and imagine the worst. We develop a fear of what could happen if they won. If your candidate did not win, those fears are coming to fruition. How do you handle that and teach your children to handle it? Here are a few ways:
- Be willing to be wrong – Open a space, even if it is initially a tiny space, that you may be wrong about the winner and what he will do so that you are willing to give him a chance to succeed
- See what is positive in the winner – Practice seeing one thing, even if it is initially a tiny thing, that is positive about the winner
- Talk to people who voted for the winning candidate and seek to understand their reasons and feelings – Make sure that you do this from a place of curiosity and do not engage in pointing out how they are wrong
- Explain to your children that not every person who voted for the winner embraces the beliefs he professed and that there was something else more important to them
- Have a conversation with your children about misinterpreting anger for authenticity or power when it is actually the opposite – Introduce the concept that kindness is a strength and that authenticity doesn’t mean being disrespectful or uncivil
- Practice focusing on what you want to occur rather than focusing on what you do not want – What you focus on expands and focusing on your desires allows you much more flexibility and creativity
Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs, recently wrote, “I’m worried because millions of people now seem to believe that [the winner’s] supporters are racist, xenophobic, and uneducated misogynists. I'm worried because despising our candidates publicly is very different than despising the people who vote for them.” Again, talk to people. Connect on a feeling level. Seek to understand over seeking to be right.
Talking about the Bullying Behavior of the Winner
Of all of the leaders that children typically look up to, President of the United States is at the top of the list. In this election, children have seen disrespectful behavior shown by the winner of the election toward women, minorities, immigrants, and the disabled throughout the campaign. How do we teach children about inclusiveness, compassion, and justice when our President Elect has not displayed those values? How do we explain the divide between having seen those behaviors and the fact that he was elected to the highest office in our country, an office children assume is held by someone who exemplifies our highest principles?
- Without explaining away or dismissing the behaviors that you do not like, discuss the ways you would have liked him to have behaved
- Explain that all famous people – including politicians, presidents, basketball players, actors, musicians – are not necessarily our mentors or heroes, and then discuss who their heroes are and the characteristics that they admire, focusing on how they want to be
- Discuss the concept of accountability – that people are responsible for their behavior and the consequences of their behavior – and how that applies to the president elect’s behavior (such as the loss of respect and lack of trust)
- Discuss how adults can choose bullying behavior and it doesn’t make it right
- Explain that this election was not typical and that you feel equally confused, again emphasizing that the majority of people voted for him in spite of those behaviors not because of them (something was more important to them)
Dr. Tim Jordan, author of Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women, recently wrote, “Instead of being left with a sense of disillusionment, encourage kids to become people of character who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of what everyone else is saying or doing. Hopefully they will do as I say and not as the politicians have done.”
Supporting the Leader
In our parenting courses, we teach the concept of ‘supporting the leader.’ That leader may be you or it may be one of your children taking charge of the dinner menu. A part of building team and increasing success is to support the leader. Our success as a nation depends upon our leader’s success. Teach your children that desiring your leader to do well is important. Supporting the leader does not mean that you agree with everything he proposes or says. It does mean being cooperative – not compliant – and holding your leader accountable. It means influencing for the greater good. Although you may disagree with the leader, it does not mean being an obstructionist.
With your children, point out how you do that in your family and encourage more of it as we move forward.
In a recent post, Desmond Tutu said, “Each side now must come together and realize that you share a greater goal than victory, which is the development of a country that serves all of its people and that leads the world to a greater destiny. The only way to peace and healing is to turn to one another and try to understand what motivates such fear and anger. The anger over inequality and injustice, whether in America or South Africa, is real and must be addressed, for a country is only as strong as its weakest and most vulnerable citizens.”
Our most vulnerable citizens are our children. Conversations about the election, including listening intently to what your children care about and what they feel, can re-establish balance after this tumultuous campaign season. How you respond sets the stage!