BY DR. DAN PETERS
What many feared, happened. Donald Trump won. Hillary Clinton lost.
Many Americans are wondering how a person who overtly speaks about groups of people and women in a derogatory way will lead our country and be one of the most powerful people in the world. So many brash, offensive, and extreme statements were made. So many parents are scared. So many kids are scared. What is going to happen to America? What is going to happen to Americans? Will we go back to the way things were? Will human rights be attacked and taken away?
I stayed up as long as I could to watch, partly for me, and partly to make sense of this so I was prepared for my three teenagers in the morning. As I became aware of my thoughts and feelings, I found myself going from fear to worry, from worry to bewilderment, and from bewilderment to searching for perspective. This election was so confusing. So much negativity, so many attacks of character, so much distrust. What would they be saying in the morning? What would their questions be? How would they feel? I thought about this all night as I tried to sleep. I then remembered what I do day in and out in my office chair – help people focus on the now, stay present, cope, and problem-solve.
Here are my 5 Things To Tell Your Children Post-Election:
1. Manage your fear – Our kids look to us for how to be and feel. This is just like when they were young and they fall. If we have an alarmed look on our face, they usually cry. If we smile and say it is okay, they usually shake it off more quickly. We MUST manage our own fear and anxiety. Our kids feel our emotion and energy. Our kids don’t understand what is happening and many have heard scary things from the media and parent conversations. Take time to center yourself and breath. Do your best to be strong for your kids – they need you to be now.
2. Focus on safety – Tell your kids we are safe. We live in a free country and are fortunate to live in the United States. We are not being attacked. We live in the same neighborhood with the same people and go to the same school. We still buy groceries, play sports, and have the same plans this weekend. I am still going to work today to do my same job. We are safe and they are safe.
3. Focus on resilience – We must focus on coping rather than fear. We must model for our kids how we deal with adversity. Tell yourself you will be okay. Tell your children we will be okay. Remind yourself we live in a democracy. Talk to your kids about our democracy and our system for decision-making about policy, laws, and war. Focus on our your personal strength. Help you kids feel strong and that together, we can handle what comes our way.
4. Teach tolerance – Teach your children about people. Some people are open-minded and others are closed-minded and fearful. We must model tolerance and try to understand where people are coming from. Even if we don’t agree with them, we must respect other human beings and search for connection. We must try to understand why people do what they do and think what they think. We don’t have to agree, but we need to try to respect all humans.
5. Instill hope – We must instill hope over fear. Hope that the humanity of people, and people of our government will do the right thing. Hope that people will work together to do what is right by us. Hope that we, Americans, and we as individuals and families will continue to fight for what is right. That we will continue to be champions of people, and defend basic human rights and dignity. Lastly, we must have hope that our new president will surround himself with people who are experienced and have compassion. We must have hope that our president can grow into his new position and see things differently from his new position of power.
Many Americans are scared. Many minorities and immigrants are scared. Some Americans are angry. Some Americans are worried about racists. Now that the election is over we all have to be strong – for our children, for our colleagues, for our country.
Don’t let fear win. Choose hope. Show your child (and your fellow Americans) how to be a good human and a respectful and honorable American. That way we ALL win.
This piece originally appeared on Huffington Post.
Cover image Pubic Domain free per Caihongyigou Team 2016.