Six Ways Parents Can Help Their Tween or Teen Post Election

Post election day, I woke with a heavy heart. It wasn’t just the announcement of a new president that I didn’t choose that filled me with sorrow. It was the announcement that a transgender boy committed suicide after midnight because he feared for his safety.  It was the stream of insults and a few punches middle schoolers were throwing at one another during a mock election. It was the several voicemails and text I received overnight from terrified teens asking “Why” and messages from their parents asking how. And, it was my daughter reaching out at 4:30am saying, “mom, I’m scared.”

I’m scared too.

Whether you voted for this president or not, this is unchartered territory for all of us. And, teens are especially fearful about what to expect. Their thoughts are racing, and their fears are mounting.  A few of the questions and concerns I've heard have been: “Are my friends or their families going to be deported?,” “Am I going to be beaten up because I’m gay,” “I’m worried about being attacked,” “Why can’t people just be kind.”, and “Does it even matter anymore? Do I even matter anymore?”

Yes. It does matter, and here is how you help your child thr0ugh his or her worry: 

(1) Breathe. Deeply, fully, wholly.  Deep breathing has been scientifically proven to calm the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system. Simple take a slow, deep breath in through you nose, hold for a few moments and then exhale slowly through your nose.

(2) Ask your children what they need right now as well as assess any self-care needs. If you find your child having self-harm or suicidal thoughts, please take your child to the nearest medical center or reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also anonymously text a crisis counselor at 741741.

(3) Step away from social media. Encourage your child to take a break from the SnapChat stories, Twitter stream and Instagram feed to go for a walk, play a game or just listen to music to allow some space between the emotionally charged comments and memes that are circulating.

(4) Open the space for courageous conversations. Ask your children what they are feeling. Then, listen. Be mindful not to dismiss their feelings or their fears.  Anger, fear, worry and sadness are valid feelings. Let your children express them. Then remind them that they are strong, capable and loved. Let them know that they can make a difference.  And, then….

(5) Be that difference.  Remember all those times you and your family talked about respecting others and the importance of the golden rule? Well, now is the time to put that into action. There are people in this country - women, people of color, LBGTQ and displaced humans - who deserve to be heard and protected and seen. Stand up for them and with them.  (see a list of organizations below)

(6) Lastly, hold your child tight and say, “I love you.” Let you your child know that you will be okay. We will all be okay.  There is so much good in the world. We *are* the good in the world.  And, together we stand to make America kind again.

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Neither you or your child is powerless. Rather than give up, stand up with compassion and conviction for causes and organizations that need your support.