This November 8th, 2016 I marched to the polls exuberantly. It was my 18 year old daughter’s first time voting and we were so excited to have a woman on the presidential ballot. We stood in a long line with our neighbors, everybody dressed in suffragette white and purple, taking selfies and chatting as if it were a party. I was thrilled that this was her first voting experience.
How much the mood in my neighborhood changed overnight! On November 9th, no matter your political affiliation, our country—indeed the entire world—was shocked by the election results.
Children are not exempt from these feelings. In fact, young children are particularly attuned to the emotive qualities in the adults around them. They may understand very little about the election and its powerful effect on the world but even the very young 3 year old Kofim children came to school on November 9th rattled. Many of the children seemed extra anxious or expressed increased dependence upon the teachers.
It is super important to remember our children when we ourselves are experiencing strong emotions. What do we do? How do we support our children when we ourselves are confused, anxious, and maybe even despairing? As with most things, I seek out Mr. Fred Rogers advice for consoling children. Here is his advice about helping children cope with death or tragedy:
It can be hard to know just what children do need at such times, but very often the same things that help us will help them, too— simple things, like hugging, talking, and having quiet times together. Inviting and including our children in our own traditional family ways of coping with grief is one of the best things we can do for our children and for ourselves. It’s easy to forget that children can be having some of the same feelings we’re having— sadness, loneliness, even anger and guilt. Knowing that those feelings are natural and normal for all of us can make it easier to share them with each other.
It is also important to remember that there is work to be done. We must sort out our feelings about this election, grieve if we have to, but then we must get back to work. As parents and teachers it is our task to participate in shaping a better world for our children and to teach them the skills they need to engage in the challenges that they will face. The most essential skill we must teach them is to be compassionate and emotionally intelligent. It is time for this work to begin.