I’ve been watching the reactions to this election, quietly in the background. I’m not here to lecture anyone about being upset. People need to feel and process what they feel.
Some people are still numb. Others are angry. Others are happy. It’s like an emotional version of the game “Guess Who,” but I’m not playing. (And I really liked that game too – better than Candyland.)
And we can’t escape it. Well, we can, but I think some people don’t really want to. They want to keep abreast of what’s going on, where the protests are, who is offering up the funniest tweets about it. Some do it to fan the fires, some do it to process it and try to move on. We would need to bring back Freud to figure this one out. And I’m not even going to say who I voted for (But if Freud came back, I might tell him.)
The only thing that upsets me, as a parent, tutor and former teacher, is, I wonder, we do remember the kids out there are watching us, right? No, there is nothing wrong with them seeing us express our feelings and being truthful about it. But to me, there is something wrong with going “over the top” about these feelings in front of our kids.
Think about how kids’ brains work. We have to remember they do not have the far-range reasoning capacity that we (supposedly) do. Their brains are not fully-developed until 25. They are very “here and now,” “black and white.” So when we say things like “Here comes the nuclear war!” or “The country is going to go into war with Russia for sure any minute now!” or “All these horrific things are going to happen in January!!”, please know that kids can’t always categorize things into “That is probably not going to happen; someone is just venting” or “That is definitely going to happen and probably very soon.” This is especially true for kids who have other issues, such as the ones on the autism spectrum, for example.
So while watching quietly in the background, I am also watching the children. I’m seeing or hearing about the kids that are wearing obscene shirts to school about the president-elect and who are then being made to change. This is disrupting the much-needed normalcy for a lot of students who are stuck watching this being played out. I’m watching the kids that are crying and can’t make themselves go to school two days in a row. And the examples go on and on.
Please remember that what may take an adult two weeks to calm down about, may affect a child for MUCH longer. So while showing your emotions to them is perfectly acceptable, remember that there is a line. Can I say that again? No one here, including me, (well, there’s just me) is saying that we should hide our feelings in front of children. What we need to remember is that they don’t have the reasoning, or the experience, or the ability to understand how the world works 100 percent yet (I’m still working on that.)
Anxiety issues in children/teens are already on the rise. Let’s not add to that. If you are upset, absolutely explain why to your child, but have a reasonable explanation and go further by telling them how you constructively plan to deal with your emotions. So what’s constructive? Talking honestly about their emotions either to a parent, teacher or to a professional, volunteering, or joining clubs at school that positively work on issues that are important to your child are all constructive and helpful things.
Also, please don’t “predict” bad things in front of children, things that haven’t even come close to happening yet. Again, children do not have the ability to recognize that most of the times “predictions” are way off (Example One: Look at the outcome of the election itself.) Yes, it’s great that children are getting into the political process. I think that is wonderful. They will develop opinions, and they will probably change them a million times, but they need their voices to be heard too.This is so important. But tread softly, as you walk them through it. They deserve that much.
Karen Kent lives in Chapel Hill. Reach her at www.ClassHalfFull.com