The morning after. No less than twenty-three posts on social media all asking the same question.
What will I tell my children?
My mind raced with thoughts of inadequacy. Oh no! Did I miss something? Was I supposed to prepare a speech for my kids about the results of the election?
Once I had my coffee and the fog lifted from my brain, I realized that I don’t have to “tell” them anything. Because, when it comes to politics, I choose not to force my beliefs onto my girls.
Don’t get me wrong. Watching my friends post pictures of their children at the polls, wearing Hillary or Trump paraphernalia was adorable! I started thinking that maybe the elections are becoming similar to team sports. If you were raised a Yankees fan, you’re always a Yankees fan. It doesn’t matter if you don’t really understand why you’re a Yankees fan. But if your parents think the Yankees are the way to go, then that’s the way it should be, right? This line of thinking had me wondering if I had parenting all wrong.
But then I came back to this - there is a difference between giving your children your opinion and giving your children a pathway to obtain information so that they can form their own. And as difficult as it is sometimes, I always try to go with the latter.
Did my girls want to know who I was going to vote for throughout the entire campaign season? Absolutely! And maybe I was in a unique position because I truly had no idea. So, when I told them I was unsure, it was the truth.
But my “I don’t know” answer led to further discussions about how to make a decision, which led to discussions about researching all candidates, and selecting someone who holds beliefs that are close to our own.
Researching candidates didn’t come willingly for my eleven and nine year old daughters. But with a quick Google search, we were able to find a political topic that my kids actually could relate to- Common Core. Now, as a parent, I think Common Core is a disaster. But when talking to my girls about it, they were both indifferent. It’s just something they are learning in school and neither of them had any complaints. So, while I may not understand Common Core, just like my mom probably didn’t understand calculus, I learned that my girls have a different outlook than I do on one of the issues being discussed on the campaign trail this year. So, based solely on this issue, my girls and I would have voted for two completely different candidates.
This simple conversation with my girls opened my mind in an important way. Not to point out the obvious here, but kids are impressionable. I do realize that as parents, we have no choice but to make certain decisions for our children. But we also have the job of empowering our kids to be confident enough to have an opinion that is different from ours, or anyone else’s, for that matter.
We should have a nation of children who are interested in finding out for themselves why they support something, rather than a nation of children who support something just because mommy and daddy feel a certain way. As parents, it’s time we acknowledge that our children have their own thoughts and may not always be on our side of the fence. It’s time we give our kids the tools to be independent thinkers.
So, if you’re still wondering what to tell your children about the election results, I completely understand your desire to tell them of your disappointment about the winner. I completely get it if you accidentally frighten them with your very real concerns about America’s future. But try to remember that, unless your child did their own research, picked their own candidate, and truly understand what happened this morning, your feelings of disappointment do not belong to them.
Instead, tell them that no matter what happens in life, no matter what setbacks they may face, their opinions, no matter how different, are valid. Tell your children that their voices matter…now, more than ever.