Like so many of you, I woke up to deeply distressing election results, and a Facebook feed full of parents asking how to share the news with their children. Here’s how I had this difficult conversation with my daughters, who are currently 8 and 6 years old.
First, I calmed myself down. This required me to take lots of deep breaths and remind myself that I just needed to hold it together until I could get the girls to school. (Please bear in mind that I have cried in front of my children, and I will do so again. I don’t have a problem with this. However, it is terribly upsetting to them, and I knew the news would be bad enough. I didn’t want to make things worse before sending them to school.)
Then I said, “Guys, the election is over, and Donald Trump won.”
No freak out. No commentary. Just that.
You see, I know what I am scared of, but I didn’t know where their young minds would go. I didn’t want to insert my fears and anxieties into their reality if they weren’t already there. So, I stayed silent. I sat, and I waited. I let their questions and concerns guide the conversation.
They were surprised. They thought Hillary would win. I told them I thought so, too, but in an election this big, you never know until the last vote is counted. They both had questions, primarily about the wall with Mexico, and whether planes would still be able to fly over it.
I answered their questions as honestly and simply as I could. No, the wall isn’t meant to keep out airplanes; it’s meant to keep out people who want to walk or drive into our country. And yes, he wants to build it, but it will likely be difficult for him to do it, for a number of reasons.
They weren’t happy. Nor am I. I told them as much, and I told them that this is how democracy works. Every four years we vote for president, and we work as hard as we can for our candidate. Sometimes our candidate wins, and sometimes she loses. And in another four years, we get a chance to vote again.
I told them that in the past, there have been presidents I liked and presidents I didn’t like, and that, God willing, it will continue that way for as long as I am lucky enough to live in a democracy.
And then I told them that lots of kids would probably be talking about this at school, and they might hear things that scare or upset them. I also told them that I am not scared (which is not entirely true, but my goal was to help them feel safe), and that we can talk about it more after school.
And then I told them to get dressed and brush their teeth. Really brush them this time, not just swipe at them with an empty toothbrush. Because what my kids really need today, and what I need today, is a little normalcy.
I hope that helps some of you. We all have different experiences and different children. What worked for me may not work for you, but hang in there. Lots of deep breaths today, folks. We’re all exhausted, so go slowly, and be kind to yourself and to the people around you.