election map and families

Final Moments of a Contentious Presidential Election

There is a palpable feeling of uneasiness as we find ourselves in the final moments of a contentious presidential election, while continuing to navigate the fallout of the ongoing pandemic. Even with our best efforts to shield our concerns from our children, they feel it. According to child psychology and human development experts, the more we adults try to suppress our feelings of anxiety, fear, and stress, the more the children feel it. Of course, that doesn’t mean we dump these feelings on our children either. Modeling how to cope with feelings of worry can assist us in processing our own feelings and also demonstrate to the children that it is okay to have negative feelings. We can be afraid and worried and also be okay.

At home, we can limit exposure to intense political conversations and political media coverage, which can be intensely confusing to children. Let’s face it, it can be confusing to adults. When we confirm what we are feeling, along with a message of safety, we name the angst they might be perceiving while reassuring them that everything is going to be okay. For young children it is enough to say, “I am nervous about the presidential election, but whoever wins, I will be okay. We will be okay.” For older children, listen to their ideas about what is happening in the world and model talking about contentious topics with respect.

At school, through developmentally appropriate provocations, we can assist children in processing what is happening around them. We can encourage their curiosity about history and current affairs. Through our interactions and example, we, as their parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors, can strive to embody qualities of civility, respectful discourse, and compassionate dissent. We can also demonstrate how we individually nurture ourselves during times of difficulty – taking time for a walk, a cup of tea, meditation, exercise, journaling, etc.

We don’t yet know the outcome of the election or the pandemic or how this generation of young people will experience and assess it later. But we can practice navigating difficult emotions around world events while actively taking good care of our emotional and mental health.