How Parents Can Help Children & Teens Cope With The Stress of The Election Results


We have all lived through an extremely stressful election cycle regardless of our political position.  The media including mainstream, social media and other sources advocating specific and controversial points of view have had a tremendous impact because emotional appeals rather than rational opinions based on issues have predominated.  Some of the rhetoric from the candidates and their surrogates has been extremely vengeful and hateful.  This has caused stress for many.  Some of us strongly supported one candidate or another, while others felt forced to choose between two flawed candidates, opt not to vote at all or vote for third party candidates, cartoon characters or themselves.

Children and teens have been watching and listening to what they see and hear in the media as well as overhearing discussions by adults and peers.  They are stressed as well.  Schools have reported children crying about the results of the election.  Some children are experiencing serious anxiety about how the election outcome might affect their lives.  Children and teens belonging to minority groups (racial and religious) have been attacked verbally and physically by peers.  Children and teens who supported Trump have been the subject of attacks as well.  Teachers say they have heard racial slurs and hateful speech they have not heard on campus prior to Tuesday.  This New York Times article provides some examples of what parents are experiencing across the country: Parents Navigate Tears and Cheers as Kids React to Election

While schools are attempting to help children and teens cope with the aftermath of this event, parents should take the lead in openly discussing this topic with their children.  Parents need to encourage children to openly share their feelings.  Children and teens need to understand that they are supported by their parents.  Parents should be open about how they are reacting as well as how they are coping.

The primary approaches to helping kids cope is listening to them, correcting misinformation, monitoring what they are watching on television, calming their fears, offering reassurance and helping them to focus on the things that they enjoy and to continue to live their lives each day as they have before by engaging in usual activities.  If you have not done so before, increase family fun time, eat dinner together (without electronics) and share your day with each other.

Because of the negative reactions of some (on both sides of the political spectrum), a discussion about acceptance and tolerance of others opinions and preferences and unfortunately how to handle bullying is probably in order as well.

Before you can help your kids, you need to take care of yourself first.  Remember the airline safety talk about placing the mask over yourself before you help the person sitting next to you.

Here is some further information that should help you with this process:

How to talk to children about difficult news and tragedies (American Psychological Association)

Talking to Children About the Election: A Message From the American Academy of Pediatrics

Articles from Child Development Institute:

Guidelines For Parent/Child Communication

How To Talk To Kids About Tragedies In The Media

How To Teach Your Kids About Tolerance

How to Talk to Your Child About Bullying