How to handle election discussion with your children

As our country prepares to inaugurate its 45th president, Donald J. Trump, it would be an understatement to say that there are still mixed feelings amongst many Americans. The election is over, and we must accept the results, regardless of political designation. As parents, we focus on our kids — their questions, concerns, and opinions. Now more than ever, children (as young as elementary aged) are politically informed.

Due to social media and mass media coverage, children engaged with their parents more than they might have during previous presidential election cycles. In fact, children are quite aware of the significance of this most recent election according to poll, where 75 percent of kids and 79 percent of teens answered “yes” when asked whether they thought that the outcome of the election would change their lives. Most teens who took the poll also ranked issues — like gas and food prices, education, health care, war, and the environment — as “very important” to them.

Regardless of personal politics, parents are still tasked with promoting certain ideals in their children in the face of divisiveness surrounding our political leaders. Although we are no longer inundated with election coverage and advertisements, we have not seen the end of negative talk on our screens, which will continue to raise questions and reactions for children. Adding to the challenge in discussing the current news coverage with children is that parents may still be struggling with their own feelings about this election.

For example, a task for parents who hoped Hillary Clinton would become the first female president, is how to cope with disappointment in themselves, but also their children’s dismay. Clinton said during her concession speech, “To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and to achieve your own dreams.”

Parents can use this moment as an opportunity to show our kids how to voice their opinions, respect others’ opinions, and value differences. Start by sharing your own opinions on these subjects, and then ask your children their opinions. Encourage expression, questions, and feelings, to ensure children become comfortable voicing these difficult emotions.

Talking about the election result will add to their learning and critical-thinking skills. It will also allow for you to hear their thoughts and correct any misconceptions. Maybe your child has fears about the future. Possibly something a candidate said or did while campaigning is still concerning to them. Actively listen to your child, her concerns, and reassure her, but also encourage her to think about the future. Let your children know that they can also make a difference in their greater community, and help them think of things that they can do for others, or identify a cause that they can more actively support.

Although it can be difficult at times to decipher the complications of this election, parents must model a positive example and provide support for their kids as the 45th president takes office.

Strategies for helping children

Denise Daniels is a Peabody Award-winning broadcast journalist, author, and parenting and child development expert, who specializes in the social and emotional development of children. She offers the following strategies and discussion tips for helping children understand the election:

Actions and values

We’re guided by our values, but we’re judged by our actions. And actions, especially in children, are almost always inspired by feelings. That’s why one of our key jobs is to help our kids understand their emotions and learn to manage them appropriately.

Managing emotions

Research has shown that children — and adults — who can’t manage their emotions have more difficulties academically, professionally, socially, and psychologically.

It’s never too early, or too late, to begin the process of helping children develop “emotional intelligence” — so that they learn to act with civility and respect, despite any bad examples they may have seen during the election season.

Talking to kids

Help older children feel comfortable talking about their emotions by listening without judgement and emphasizing that all feelings are okay. Then teach your children strategies for managing their emotions, whether it’s taking deep breaths and counting to 10 to diffuse anger, or using positive self-talk to overcome fear or sadness.

Talking to teens

When children understand their own feelings and those of others, they can act with self-control, compassion, and empathy. When teens have developed emotional intelligence, they are better able to resist peer pressure and stay true to themselves.

When young adults act responsibly, they will vote with care and conviction. Our world — and our endless election cycles — will be better for it.

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Shnieka Johnson is an education consultant and freelance writer. She is based in Manhattan where she resides with her husband and son. Contact her via her website: