So your candidate won the election. Or lost the election. In the aftermath, you're probably sorting through a tangle of intense thoughts and feelings. But know this: Our kids are watching. And they are picking up on what they see at home, on the news, and in their communities. Too often what they’re hearing and seeing are strong expressions of anger, fear, and despair. The events of yesterday when a threatening mob successfully stormed the U.S. Capitol certainly confused and frightened many children.
But kids can also, just as easily, absorb feelings of trust, hope, and optimism. After a highly contentious campaign season and in a post-election period that finds us still deeply divided as a nation, we best serve our kids if we Stay Calm and Parent On.
Perhaps you’ve been talking to your kids about the election. You’ve explained the importance of voting and what it means to be an engaged citizen. You’ve talked about your choice candidates and how their ideas and policies mesh with your personal values. You’ve talked about what has transpired. These are all important conversations to have with kids, especially if this is the first election they’ve observed with interest.
Now, it’s time to help your kids understand how to move forward. It’s time for conversations about empathy and the importance of treating every person with kindness and respect. It’s time to talk with your kids about what it means to win with grace and lose with dignity. It’s time to show them with our own actions how to mend fences and build bridges.
Certainly it’s easier to talk about these values than it is to live them. These past several months, the bar for civil discourse and good behavior has rested at a deeply concerning low. Grown-ups may be forgiven for feeling a little cynical and too depleted to hoist themselves back up on the high road. But as parents working to help kids become the best version of themselves, we must lead by example and demonstrate the behavior we want our kids to emulate. We must call out bad behavior by adults and help kids understand why it is wrong.
Setting aside the negativity that may pull us like a magnet, let’s seize the chance to help our kids move forward with optimism. Let’s show them how to relate to others—even to those with whom they disagree—with care and sensitivity. Let’s return to the basic building blocks of civility with these seven simple steps you can share with your kids to help them get started.
- Assume good intentions.
- Remember that there are many different ways of seeing the same thing.
- Listen with kindness and respect to friends who see things differently.
- Don’t call people names or bully them.
- Find common ground. There’s always common ground.
- Agree to disagree on the rest.
- Never forget that every human is sacred.
Seven simple, clear steps that will lead us to the high road. Let’s get moving.
Christine French Cully is Chief Purpose Officer and Editor in Chief at Highlights for Children. As Chief Purpose Officer, Cully’s focus is on growing awareness and implementation of the Highlights purpose, core beliefs, and values—to help actualize the organization’s vision for a world where all children can become people who can change the world for the better....