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Parenting After the Election: Three Lessons for Kids (and Parents)

The 2016 election taught us about our current political state, but it can also teach our children a valuable lesson: how to deal with disagreement and debate.
Last Updated
April 22, 2019
posted on
November 9, 2016
Minute Read

Well, the election is over and some Americans are upset, some ecstatic and others stunned. We have witnessed a historical moment. While some are elated and others bereft, we must learn something very important from all that happened during the campaign: how to deal with disappointment and disagreement.

In my own life, I have never seen a campaign filled with more name-calling, vitriol, and divisiveness. We must pray that these are over now that the next president has been chosen.
The election leaves us with lessons to learn about how to handle disappointment and disagreement. As Van Jones, and many other parents, asked last night, “How do I explain this to my children?” It is a difficult situation parents find themselves in today, but we can use this time as an opportunity to teach our kids a few very important lessons.

1. Teach them how to handle disappointment.

Chances are that even if you voted for Trump, you may feel a bit uneasy because of the colors he showed during the campaign. Personally, I believe these will disappear and he will begin to lead as a statesman. As you process the election results, your kids will be watching. If you feel any level of disappointment, make sure that you elevate the conversation in your home. Rather than dive into the name-calling like the candidates did, talk to your kids about what to do when things don’t go their way. Talk to your kids about the election process, results and why you are disappointed if you are, but refuse to call politicians names.

Talk about how things will change in the country and then ask your kids what they think.
If you didn’t get your way, then tell them what you intend to do with your concerns. Also, talk with your kids about how this momentous occasion came to be. Involve them in your thought process. And now, talk about the importance of living with differences and disappointment but moving forward with mutual respect for others.

2. Show your kids how to disagree with others in a healthy manner.

Sadly, the days of reasonable, civil debate seem to have disappeared. Healthy discourse has been shut down by fear. And this is sad, because traditionally, debate is intended to open people’s minds. But many adults have felt bullied into keeping silent about their beliefs on very important issues. This dynamic may be why the country is stunned by Trump’s victory—many of his supporters stayed silent about their support for fear of being ostracized.

Don’t bully your kids in your home. Teach your kids what you believe and why. Then teach them how to disagree with others in a respectful manner. After all, vibrant debate stimulates thought, and disagreement defines a democracy that is so critical to American life. We have two parties for a reason: because people hold differing views and yet work together. If we fail to show the next generation how to disagree with others yet still respect and work with them, they learn to give up on fighting for what they believe is right. Then, we all lose.

It is important for kids to learn how to disagree with others in a respectful manner. As you converse with friends, don’t call others names or post nasty comments on Facebook. Refuse to tussle in the arena where the candidates have been fighting for the past 18 months. Be better than that.

3. Work on building strong character in your home.

Remember, presidents change but your job as a parent never does. Your responsibility is to keep the children living under your roof moving forward and growing into strong young adults. You don’t have a four-year limit on your term as a parent and that’s a wonderful thing.

Parents don't have term limits. Raising kids of character is still a parent's responsibility.In the days ahead, focus on the things in your home that really matter. It will be a great relief to be able to turn on the news again and not hear about Hillary’s scandals and indiscretions or Trump’s most recent slur about a woman’s body.

So let’s put the sludge of the campaign behind us and fight to become the United States.Regardless of how you feel about the new president who will live in the White House, what must really matter to each parent now is what happens in your house.

Dr. Meg Meeker, MD

Practicing pediatrician, parent, grandparent, coach, speaker, and author. Say hello @MegMeekerMD

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