Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 3:32 pm | Fair 59º


Winifred Lender: How to Talk to Your Kids About the Presidential Election Outcome

The recent presidential election was a central focus of national attention for some time, and many youth were aware of and even participated in the lead-up to the voting.

Now that the election is over, children may be exposed to strong emotions about the outcome. Many parents wonder how to talk to their children about the results in a way that is candid and supportive.

Regardless of a parent’s sentiments about the winners and losers, children may be exposed to the strong emotions of people in the community who are either very happy with the results or very disturbed by them.

In addition, many children will see media messages about the outcome that may be laden with emotion and talk about uncertainty, which can lead children to feel anxious. Taking some time now to consider how to speak with your child about the election results and other people’s responses to them is an important first step.

Consider some of the following tips to make this a teachable moment for your child, and be responsive to any concerns or anxiety they may express.

» Begin a discussion about the election at time when a child will be receptive. Avoid this type of discussion prior to bedtime or departure for school. These are times of separation from parents, and it is important to monitor the child’s response to the information.

» Model a sense of calmness when you talk about the event. Children will take their cues from you, and if you are anxious or overly emotional, they will respond to this.

» Regardless of whether you are happy or unhappy with the results, it is important to normalize the fact that people may have strong feelings about the outcome and that this is part of the process of democracy and making choices.

» Start by asking the child if he or she has heard about the outcome of the election and what they have heard. Listen to what the child tells you.

» Correct any misinformation the child may have, and ask if they have any questions. Address the questions you can.

» Don’t feel the need to answer all questions. It is OK to say that you don’t know the answers to some questions.

» If the child has no information about the election, provide simple information that is tailored to their cognitive level and temperament.

» Be aware of your child’s reaction to the discussion. Some children may tend to ruminate on the subject and may need extra support.

» Often times children become fearful or anxious if they feel that many things in their life will change. Focus on all that remains the same after an election. Reinforce to the child that their daily life will remain very much the same.

» For older children and those who were actually involved in the lead-up to the election, focus on the democratic process and the history of election outcomes. Encourage them to continue to be involved in the political process in other ways since the election is over.

» Try to limit and mediate television, newspaper and radio access and ensure an adult is nearby when information about the election is presented so that the child’s response can be observed.

» Remove digital devices from a child’s bedroom at night to avoid the possibility that children will be exposed to overly emotional or inappropriate information about the election.

» As much as possible return to your normal routine. The structure of the routine provides clear expectations that can support a child during a period of time when others around them may seem emotional

— Winifred Lender Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Santa Barbara and can be contacted at [email protected]. She is the author of A Practical Guide to Parenting in the Digital Age: How to Nurture Safe, Balanced and Connected Children and Teens available at Chaucer’s and Amazon. Lender completed her undergraduate work at Cornell University and received her master’s and doctorate degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. She completed a fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia/The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and is a past president of the Santa Barbara County Psychological Association. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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