The Election | What Are We Teaching Our Kids?

By Gloria Shepard, via her blog

Post-election, parents are wondering what the Election of Donald Trump will mean to our kids. Kids learn much more from how we are than what we say. Let’s look at ourselves.

kidsAre you taking care of your feelings?
I want to be clear, taking care of feelings does not mean fighting, hiding, or ignoring them. It doesn’t mean drinking wine or eating chocolate to get through them (I know, this is a hard truth!!). And it doesn’t mean acting them out, posting rants on Facebook, calling anybody names, blaming people we disagree with, lecturing, boasting, or being self-righteous. Taking care of our feelings does mean slowing down to FEEL them. To allow them. To be with our vulnerable selves. For lots of us, this includes talking with a helpful friend, a counselor, a support group, or another trusted helper, because we can’t always do it alone (and we don’t need to!).

When we do this, we set an important example for our children. We show them that it is okay to have even big feelings. I am struck by the parallel between our experience of this election and our teens’ experience of getting into college. ‘This is not the end of the world,’ we tell them when they don’t get into their first choice college, ‘it’s going to be okay.’ Let’s set an example of how to handle deep upsets by showing up for ourselves (and each other) in a loving way.

a-blackwomanandchildAre you staying in the present?
Someone told me at about 7 am on November 9, ‘I can’t believe Donald Trump is president.’ He isn’t! We are still in November, and most of us don’t even know what we’re having for dinner, let alone what will be happening in January. Let’s take things one step at a time. This is the time for feeling, not projecting ourselves into the future and the past, both of which are out of our control. Let’s stay in this moment.

Staying present helps our kids know that it is possible to stay in a hard moment. If they get into a fight with a friend and imagine how they will have to sit alone for lunch and recess for the rest of the year because they won’t have any friends, we can gently bring them back to this moment. ‘Right now, it feels hard. Things may change, but let’s stay with what we know is true.’

Is your speech loving?
Can we talk about a person’s choices, actions, and words without characterizing that person in judging, unkind, or insulting ways? Because the way we speak about a person teaches our children much more about us than about the person! So let’s be mindful of our speech. Let’s not dehumanize a person, no matter what they say or do, instead let’s speak directly about their choices.

This is important because our reactive and alarming speech is really scaring our kids. When a child hears a parent say, ‘He is evil,’ they are going to be scared about what this means for our country. When a child hears a parent say, ‘He speaks about Muslim people in a way that is just not okay. What I know is that our country is not only for one religion, it is founded on tolerance for all religions and no religion,’ they understand more clearly.

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Gloria Shepard is a lifelong educator, mom to older teens, and long-time mindfulness and meditation practitioner, Gloria Shepard has a practical, heart-centered approach to mindfulness and parenting education. Gloria has spent more than ten years integrating mindfulness with motherhood, emotional work, trauma release, and healing. She is a Mindful School certified instructor, with a Masters in Education, trained in emotional awareness, trauma- and stress-informed mindfulness support, inquiry, and self-acceptance.