Everyone is asking, “What will we tell the children?”
Some are nervous, some are scared, some are angry.
Honestly, do you want to tell them anything while you’re in that state?
Will showing your children how to be scared, nervous, and angry help them right now?
When Olivia, my oldest daughter, woke up today, the first thing she asked was, “Who won the election?”
This is how I answered her.
“Before I tell you who won, I want you to understand a few things. People who run for president say and do a lot of crazy things while they are campaigning so that people will talk about them and vote for them. They all make promises they can’t keep – and sometimes those promises are scary to us. But I want you to understand that many promises made in the last few years will never come true. Lots of them will, and we hope they are good promises that help our country thrive, but much of the talk you’ve heard and much of the things people are scared of will just not happen. I need you to know that.
I also need you to understand that even if some of the terrible things happen that everyone is scared of – you do not need to be afraid. We are still who we are. People are still good. God is still in charge. And if it comes to it, we will help people however we can and pray really hard for God to do what we can’t.
I need you to know that lots of people are very upset right now. No matter what, there is a loser here and there are lots of people who supported and believed in that candidate. Those people are hurt, confused, angry, and may say some things that sound mean or scary to you. Know that, like the campaign, a lot of that is simply people saying something for an effect. They don’t mean it – people are good, baby. But sometimes good people get scared and angry and say things they don’t necessarily mean. Be extra kind to everyone today and know that lots of people are hurting and don’t know what to do now. Try not to argue with people, see if you can change the subject, and always have a smile.”
“OK mom, so who won?”
“Donald Trump did, sweetie.”
When her eyes filled up with tears, I understood why. Her best friend’s parents are from Mexico. Her friend is afraid of Trump’s stance on immigration, which means my baby is afraid as well.
“You don’t have to be afraid, Olivia. God is in control of all this, not men. Always remember that. Remember that you are in control of how you react with your emotions and that you are in control of what you do in response to what happens to people. Remember that you are Olivia, you are awesome, and no matter who is President of the United States, that is always true. And remember that Daddy and I are here, and we won’t let anything happen to you. And we are happy to answer any of your questions, OK?”
I repeated basically the same speech to Eleanor when she got up, too.
At the end of the day, my girls are young. They need age-appropriate answers. They don’t need me repeating propaganda, telling them about all the negative things the candidates did and said and may do and say in the future. They need me to remind them that the sun will come up. No matter what happens, our God is bigger, and their parents have their backs. They understand our world views and are sweet, empathetic, inclusive children and I don’t want them to lose that in favor of fear and anger.
What will we tell the children? We will tell them the truth: that presidents come and go, they are good and bad leaders, that they are flawed because they are human just like we are. And that in the end all we can do is pray and try to be the change we want to see in the world.