So here we are, children all over the country are wandering into school with the knowledge that the USA has a new president. But what does it mean for them?
I asked my children this morning how they felt about it. Their responses differed but clearly showed that they had interpreted the election campaigns in different ways. They raised concerns about the rights of the LGBT community in America, what the wall between Mexico and USA will look like and who the USA will go to war with first. Whilst these may appear to be innocent responses from children it does show that they have paid attention to the election campaigns.
We can’t ignore the fact that children have been caught up in the roller coaster and hysteria of the US election campaigns. We also can’t assume that the results will be discussed at length or in any depth at school today. As parents and carers we have a responsbility to recognise any concerns they may have and reassure them about the future.
Research has shown that the fears and concerns of children during a period of instability like this will be very similar to ours and they will need reassuring about the results. As children often have a simplistic understanding of the politics they hear and see they may well over emphasise what they do understand. In the playground today there will be talk about the election results. There is no doubt that children will be replicating conversations and standpoints they have heard from the media and adults but lack the sensitivity or understanding of how their simplistic views may cause fear. I know my children are likely to be discussing war, walls and LGBT rights but without any real depth or analysis.
As adults, we cannot provide children with answers about what is going to happen next. It is our responsibility to reassure them and make sure that they feel safe. It is an opportunity to discuss with them issues relating to equality, human rights and violence. It is the perfect time to look at issues of morality and what we perceive to be right and wrong in our world. Our children have been exposed to attitudes and behaviours from the candidates during this election which would be challenged in the school playground. Now is the time to have conversations about fairness, justice and democracy and reaffirm what we believe is the right way to act towards each other.
When they come home from school this evening, or tomorrow, or next week ask them what they understand about the results of the US Elections 2016. What have they heard from others, how did they respond and how do they feel about it? If your son/daughter shows real concern about something they have heard explore it with them. Take time to research it and examine the issues relating to it. It is unlikely you will find an answer or resolution but the important thing is to listen and reassure them in an objective and open-minded way. Do not dismiss their thoughts and feelings about the election and the result, there may be something troubling them that we may need to help them make sense of.
Let’s help make our future generation one which is articulate, reflective and open-minded. A generation which engages with politics because they have been given the confidence and reassurance by their families to explore and discuss issues in a safe and secure environment from an early age.