Every four years, we endure the onslaught of political commercials, emails, and phone calls that come along with the presidential election. For many, this year’s election brought on emotion, stress, and tension, and believe it or not, children can sense these feelings and draw from the emotions.
Open up the floor for questions
No matter your political affiliation or who you voted for, this election could give you an opportunity to have meaningful conversations with your child about elections. It is likely that on the heels of this highly publicized election, parents may be answering many questions from kids. The theme of your talk doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around partisan beliefs or even about who you voted for. This can be an opportunity to give your child an objective view of the democratic process and learn about the importance of participation.
It’s important that kids understand why we choose to vote for candidates to represent us and our values. Consider speaking to them about why their vote matters, how civic engagement and participation is important, and that voting is our right and obligation as part of a democracy.
While this year’s election was particularly divisive, explain that being part of something bigger than yourself is good for your mental well-being. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people have felt isolated and kids’ worlds have been turned upside down, voting in an election is a normal part of living in this country. With the continued news coverage of this election, consider taking breaks with no television, so that kids don’t begin to feel overwhelmed.
Coping with election stress
Remember, it’s okay to talk to your kids about feelings you’re having about the election. Parents can model meaningful conversations about emotions by explaining just how you’re feeling, think “I’m anxious about this election,” or “I’m hopeful for the future.” While sharing how you are feeling, it is also important for parents to be in touch with kids’ emotions. Ask them how they are feeling, what they have been hearing about the election at school or from their friends. Listening could help you open up a dialogue.
It’s important to remember not to tell kids how they should think or feel, but to create a space where you can both share opinions. This will help show kids that it’s okay and normal to have differing opinions from others, and that most importantly we should be respectful of others.
In a world with people from all walks of life, we all have different ideas, but that does not mean that we cannot live together peacefully. Throughout life, you and your child will face issues that may be difficult to explain. Talking openly about this election will give kids an opportunity to ask questions and learn valuable life skills.
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