By Alisha Bennett, LMSW
The morning after the election, many parents and teachers worried about how to talk to kids about the outcome. Regardless of who you voted for, or what political party you align with, no one can deny the anger, sadness and fear that was present in our country on November 9th.
According to an article published CNN, which cites a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, there have been over 2,500 reports in schools of negative incidents connected to the president elect’s campaign rhetoric. The article states that 90% of surveyed educators reported that the school climate has been negatively affected by the election, and 40% of surveyed educators reported that “they have heard derogatory language used against students of color, Muslims, immigrants, and other students based on gender or sexual orientation.”
All of our children are being affected. Even if they are not the targets, they are witnesses to the new expressions of hatred. Although we cannot undo what has been said and done, we can do our best to educate and raise our children to be compassionate, understanding, inclusive and kind regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We can teach them to have love and compassion for those that are different from them in a country where Islamophobia, sexism and racism have been given a voice. We can teach them ways to protect themselves and others from behaviors that have been promoted, like discrimination and assault. Although this list will not solve all of the current problems that our children are facing, here are some starting points to do this:
- First, remind your children every day that they are loved, protected and cared for by you. Remind them that the adults in school are there to protect all of the children and keep them safe.
- Educate them about actions they can take:
- Teach them how to stick up for others and not be a bystander if someone is getting teased or made fun of. Tell them how to get help from their teachers if they see this happening to someone.
- Teach them how to stick up for what is right and what is kind. Encourage them to use their voice for what is right.
- Teach them that no one should talk about their bodies or touch their bodies without their permission. Teach them how to say no and tell them how to get help if anyone ever does this.
- Educate them about differences:
- Teach them about all the different ways families are made and that the love all families share for each other is the same as the love you share with them.
- Teach them that we all have different beliefs, traditions and celebrations in the same way that you do, whether religious or not.
- Teach them to care and be kind to all people, even if they look, love, believe or identify differently.
- Expose and teach them to get to know and understand others' diversity and differences. Teach them to have an open mind and not to judge others based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
- As they get older, help them to appreciate and understand their privilege, whatever that privilege may be. I believe that if you can teach children to appreciate their privilege, that they will better be able to have compassion for those that do not have the same privilege(s). And when we have compassion, we are all better people that can promote love, kindness and inclusion.
Alisha Bennett is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support with coping with the post-election climate, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com and learn how therapy can help.